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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

2 Corinthians 8

Verses 1-99

Ch. 8, 9 The Collection for the poor Saints at Jerusalem

The somewhat abrupt commencement of this chapter is explained by a reference to 1 Corinthians 16:0 . See notes there (and also Acts 24:17 ; Romans 15:25-27 ). The plain directions there given by the Apostle render it unnecessary for him to enter into any explanation of his meaning here. Therefore the Corinthians are simply stirred up by the example of other Churches, and by considerations drawn from the nature of the Christian religion, to be forward in that good work.

1. we do you to wit ] The translation is Tyndale’s. Wiclif translates literally, we make known to you . Cranmer, I certifye you (cf. Calvin, certiores vos facio ). The word wit is derived from the Anglo-Saxon witan , the German wissen , Shakespeare’s wis , to know, and do is here used in the sense of make . Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3 , 1 Corinthians 15:1 , and Galatians 1:11 , where the same Greek word is used.

the grace of God ] i.e. the favour He had shewed them in thus making them partakers of His Spirit.

bestowed on ] Rather, in. ( Given in , Tyndale. So Wyclif and the Rhemish Version.) St Paul would imply that though given by God, it is manifested in their conduct.

the churches of Macedonia ] The Thessalonians and the Philippians, and probably the Beroeans. It is observable that a holy emulation is a spirit quite consistent with the principles of the Gospel. Though we are not to seek the praise of men, we may not despise their example. “I wish you to know, how much good God has wrought in them.” Estius.

2. trial ] The Greek word is always used of that which has been tried and has stood the test See notes on 1 Corinthians 11:19 and James 1:12 in this series. The meaning here is that tribulation has brought out the genuine Christian qualities of the Macedonian Churches. For this tribulation see 1 Thessalonians 1:6 , 1 Thessalonians 1:2 :14; Acts 17:5 .

affliction ] Translated more usually tribulation . See note on ch. 1:4. The Apostle refers to the persecutions which they shared with him, which, if not endured in the proper spirit, would have shut them up in the contemplation of their own sorrows, instead of making them anxious to relieve those of others.

the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty ] Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:26 . “In spite of their troubled condition they had displayed great joyfulness, and in spite of their poverty they had displayed great liberality.” De Wette. The Geneva Version instead of ‘deep poverty’ has the poverty which had consumed them even to the very bottom . The literal rendering of deep is down to the depth , or according to depth . “Munificence,” says Chrysostom, “is determined not by the measure of what is given, but by the mind of those who bestow it.” Cf. Luke 21:3 . “The condition of Greece in the time of Augustus was one of great desolation and distress … It had suffered severely by being the seat of the successive civil wars between Caesar and Pompey, between the triumvirs and Brutus and Cassius, and lastly, between Augustus and Antonius … The provinces of Macedonia and Achaia petitioned in the reign of Tiberius for a diminution of their burdens, and were considered deserving of compassion.” Arnold’s Roman Commonwealth . Corinth (see Introduction to First Epistle), from its position, would no doubt recover more speedily from such a condition of depression.

the riches of their liberality ] ( singleness , Tyndale and Cranmer, simplicity , Rhemish, after Vulgate). It is worth remarking that nowhere, save in 1 Timothy 6:17 , does St Paul use the word riches of material, but, with that one exception, solely of moral or spiritual wealth. Dean Stanley remarks on the fact that both the Greek word translated liberality , and its English equivalent, have a double meaning, the original meaning of the Greek word being singlettess of heart , absence of all selfish motives (see ch. 1:12), and that of the English word the habit of mind engendered by a state of freedom.

3. willing of themselves] Willynge of their owne accorde , Tyndale. Literally, of their own choice , not excluding, however, as Meyer well remarks, Divine, but only human, influence in the matter. Cf. v . 17.

4. intreaty ] Monestynge , Wiclif; instaunce , Tyndale. Exhortation , Rhemish. See note on ch. 1:3.

that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship ] A more literal rendering would be, praying of us the gift and fellowship (perhaps we may take this as a Hebraism, meaning ‘the favour of the fellowship’), i.e. that the Apostle would allow them to take part in the good work. The word here translated gift is the same which is usually translated grace in the N.T. See note on ch. 1:12. And the words ‘that we would receive’ are not in the best MSS. and versions.

5. And this they did ] The words this they did are not in the original. They were added by Tyndale in order to explain the meaning of the passage. The construction of the Greek is not clear, but the general sense is that by the readiness of their offers of service and by their devotion to God, the Macedonians had surpassed St Paul’s expectations.

first gave their own selves ] First here may be a reference to the order of time, but it is better, with most commentators, to understand it of the order of importance; ‘above all.’ Alford. For a similar expression see the Greek of John 1:27 , John 1:30 .

and unto us ] The sense requires ‘and then unto us,’ i.e. as God’s ministers and representatives. Cf. Acts 15:28 .

by the will of God ] See note on v . 3. It was God’s Will that they should have the power to act thus, if they were willing to carry out His Will. Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 , 1 Thessalonians 4:5 :18; 1 Timothy 2:4 .

6. Insomuch that we desired Titus ] Titus, it seems clear by the words ‘as he had begun,’ went a second time to Corinth before the Apostle arrived there (see, however, note on v . 18). His first visit began, his second completed the collection for the saints. For desired see ch. 1:3, the word receiving a great variety of translations in the N. T. Perhaps incited (or urged ) would be the best translation here.

finish ] Literally, complete .

in you ] Literally, unto you . “Erga vos.” Estius.

the same grace also ] See note on v . 4. The Greek word is the same in both instances. The grace or favour is either (1) (see last note) the work of love which St Paul had accomplished in Macedonia, that of stirring up their zeal in giving; or (2) it may refer to the good work which God performed in their souls by means of His ministers, in drawing out all the best qualities of their renewed humanity.

7. as ye abound ] Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:5 .

in all diligence ] See note on ch. 7:11.

your love to us ] Some copies read our love to you .

this grace also ] The word here, as in the last verse, seems to bear more the signification known to us in the phrase ‘Christian graces’ than in most places in which it occurs. The passage should perhaps run see that ye also abound (literally exceed , see note on ch. 7:4) in this grace , i.e. act of favour or kindness (see last verse). We may observe that faith and utterance and the like were of little avail without love. See 1 Corinthians 8:1 , 1 Corinthians 8:13 ; 2 Peter 1:5-7 .

8. I steak not by commandment ] The Apostles “never spoke as dictators. Robertson. See ch. 1:24, and v . 10, as well as 1 Corinthians 7:6 , 1 Corinthians 7:25 ; Philemon 1:8 , Philemon 1:9 , Philemon 1:13 , Philemon 1:14 , and 1 Peter 5:3 .

by occasion of the forwardness of others ] Because other are so fervent . Tyndale.

sincerity ] Literally, genuineness . Cf. Philippians 4:3 ; 1 Timothy 1:2 ; Titus 1:4 . The original meaning is of legitimate as opposed to illegitimate birth.

9. For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ ] In St Paul’s eyes “Christ is the reference for everything. To Christ’s life and Christ’s Spirit St Paul refers all questions, both practical and speculative, for solution.” Robertson. For grace see above, vv . 4, 6. Tyndale and some of the other versions render it here by liberality , and Estius interprets by beneficentia .

though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor ] Rather, being rich (cf. St John 3:13 in the Greek and ch. 11:31). There is no was in the original. Jesus Christ did not cease to be rich when He made Himself poor. He did not cease to be God when He became Man. For became poor we should perhaps translate, made Himself a beggar . The aorist refers to the moment when He became Man; and the word translated poor seems rather to require a stronger word. (“Apostolus non dixit pauper sed egenus. Plus est egenum esse quam pauperem.” Estius.) The word (which seems “to have almost superseded the common word for poverty in the N.T.” Stanley) is connected with the root to fly, to fall , and yet more closely with the idea of cowering , and seems to indicate a more abject condition than mere poverty. For the word, see Matthew 5:3 , also ch. 6:10, and v . 2 of this chapter. For the idea cf. Matthew 8:20 ; Philippians 2:6-8 .

that ye through his poverty might be rich ] We could only attain to God by His bringing Himself down to our level. See John 1:9-14 , John 1:18 , John 1:12 :45, John 1:14 :9; Colossians 1:15 ; Hebrews 1:3 . And by thus putting Himself on an equality with us He enriched us with all the treasures that dwell in Him. Cf. Ephesians 1:7 , Ephesians 1:8 , 2:Ephesians 1:5-7 , 3:Ephesians 1:16-19 ; Colossians 2:2 , Colossians 2:3 , &c., as well as Philippians 2:6-8 just cited.

10. And herein I give my advice ] See v . 8.

for this ] Either (1) ‘that I advise and not command,’ or (2) ‘this proof of your love.’

expedient ] Rather, profitable . The word expedient in the A.V. is never, as in modern English, opposed to right . See note on 1 Corinthians 6:12 . Wiclif and the Rhemish Version render here by profitable . See Luke 16:9 and 1 Timothy 6:18 , 1 Timothy 6:19 .

begun before ] i.e. before the Macedonian Churches. See ch. 9:2.

but also to be forward ] Literally, to will (margin, be willing ). There is much difference of opinion among the commentators concerning the apparent inversion of the natural order in this sentence. But it would seem that the Apostle, as we might expect from such passages as ch. 3:3, 6, Romans 7:6 , &c., attaches more importance to the motive than to the action. They not only had begun to do the work, but they had resolved to do so upon a full persuasion that it was the right thing to do. Their conduct was due to no mere transitory impulse, but was the deliberate conviction of the heart. To this “readiness to will” (see next two verses) the Apostle appeals, and invites them to further action on the ground that the principle on which they acted was just as true now as it had been in the previous year. See note on ch. 9:7.

a year ago ] Better, perhaps, last year ( the former yeere . Wiclif; ab anno priore . Vulgate). St Paul probably speaks as a Jew. But it is uncertain whether he refers to the Jewish civil or ecclesiastical year, the former of which began with the month Tisri, answering to part of our September and October, the latter with the month Abib or Nisan. The former is more probable, for the Apostle must have been writing too near the commencement of the latter to give any force to his remark. See 1 Corinthians 16:5 , 1 Corinthians 16:8 , and ch. 2:12, 13.

11. Now therefore perform the doing of it ] The words perform, performance , in this verse should rather be rendered complete, completion . See ch. 7:1, where the participle of the same verb is rendered perfecting , also v . 6 of this chapter. The sense is, ‘you made a resolution last year to do a certain work. Carry out that resolution now, and let the completion of the task bear witness, as far as your ability goes, to the genuineness of the resolution you then made.’

out of that which you have ] i.e. according to your means. See note on v . 2.

12. For if there be first a willing mind ] Literally, For if willingness (or readiness ) is present . See Hebrews 6:18 . The word translated willing mind here is rendered readiness in v . 11 and ready mind in v . 19.

13. that other men be eased, and you burdened ] This translation is partly due to the Geneva Version and partly to Tyndale. Literally it runs, that other men should have relief (see note on ch. 7:5) and ye tribulation . ( That it be remissioun to other men and to you tribulation . Wiclif. Similarly the Rhemish Version.) “Again, in St Paul’s spirit of entreaty we remark the spirit of reciprocity. It might have been supposed that because St Paul was a Jew he was therefore anxious for his Jewish brethren; and that in urging the Corinthians to give liberally, even out of their poverty, he forgot the unfairness of the request, and was satisfied so long as only the Jews were relieved it mattered not at whose expense.” Robertson.

14. but by an equality ] Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:0 and Acts 2:41-47 , Acts 4:32-37 . Dean Stanley remarks on the similarity between this passage and several in the 5th book of Aristotle’s Ethics , and no doubt St Paul here uses the word in Aristotle’s sense of fairness, reciprocal advantage . Many of the English translators connect these words with those that succeed, but by an equality at the present time .

your abundance ] i.e. as we should now say, super abundance. See note on ch. 7:4, where the word in the Greek is derived from the same root. The English word abundance is derived from the Latin unda , a wave, and signifies originally an overflowing quantity .

that their abundance also may be a supply for your want ] Literally, might be . There are two interpretations of this passage. The first, which is supported by the ancient interpreters, refers it to the spiritual return made by the Jews in the fact that it was men of their nation who preached the Gospel to the heathen. Cf. ch. 9:14. The second, which has found favour with the moderns, is that the allusion is to earthly gifts. The chief difficulty which besets the latter interpretation is the impossibility of conceiving of what those earthly gifts could consist, unless, with De Wette, we regard it as referring to a communication of earthly goods “at another time, and under other possible circumstances.” But Estius refers to Luke 14:12-14 , as decisive against any reference to temporal recompense.

15. as it is written ] In Exodus 16:18 . “In this miracle St Paul perceives a great universal principle of human life. God has given to every man a certain capacity and a certain power of enjoyment. Beyond that he cannot find delight. Whatever he heaps or hoards beyond that, is not enjoyment but disquiet.” Robertson.

16. But thanks be to God ] The word translated thanks here is that translated grace, gift , in other places of this Epistle. We learn from vv . 6, 17, that Titus, moved by the strong interest in the Corinthians which his first mission had excited, and being requested by the Apostle to undertake the work of stimulating their energy in the charitable work they had undertaken ( v . 10), determined of his own accord to visit Corinth, instead of writing (this seems the only way in which we can reconcile v . 6 with v . 17), and thus to stir up the Corinthians by his personal presence to a holy emulation of the good deeds of the Churches of Macedonia. Titus can hardly, as some have thought, have been entrusted with this Epistle on the occasion of which the Apostle speaks, for St Paul speaks in the past tense of this mission. See notes on v . 18 and ch. 12:18.

which put ] “Opera bona Dei dona.” Estius. The received Greek text here has ‘putteth,’ but a large number of MSS. read as in the text.

the same earnest care ] i.e. the same as I have myself. For earnest care ( bisynesse , Wiclif, good mynde , Tyndale and Cranmer) see notes on ch. 7:11, 12, 8:7, where the same Greek word is used.

17. For indeed he accepted the exhortation ] The Greek implies that Titus did indeed receive an exhortation from St Paul, but that he did more than he had been asked to do. For exhortation compare entreaty , v . 4, and see note on ch. 1:3.

but being more forward ] Literally, ‘more diligent ,’ i.e. than I had desired him to be. See note on earnest care above.

18. And we have sent with him ] Literally, we sent with him , unless the tense be what is known as the epistolary aorist (see above, ch. 2:9), in which case these messengers were also the bearers of this Epistle.

the brother, whose praise is in the gospel ] Innumerable guesses have been made as to who this was. We can but briefly glance at them. First of all it is clear that it was no obscure member of any of the various communities who is here mentioned. He was thoroughly well known to the Churches. Secondly, we may remark that it was not Barnabas , as many of the early Fathers have supposed, since we never hear of Paul and Barnabas as travelling together after their misunderstanding in Acts 15:0 , nor Silas , for he does not appear to have been with the Apostle after his departure from Corinth for Jerusalem related in Acts 18:18 . We learn from the next verse that the ‘brother’ here referred to was a delegate of the Churches, and deputed to accompany St Paul on his journey to Jerusalem with the proceeds of the collection. He must either have been a delegate of the Ephesian or the Macedonian Christians. If the latter, it must have been (1) St Luke, for he did travel with St Paul on this occasion, as we learn from Acts 20:5 . And though he did not join the Apostle till he reached Philippi from Corinth, and did not accompany him on his visit to Corinth (Acts 20:1-5 ), this is no reason against his having accompanied Titus on his visit to Corinth. See note on v . 16. And St Luke answers in many ways better than any one else to this description. But ch. 9:4 seems to imply that the brother was not of Macedonia (though Meyer thinks that the whole context shews him to have been a Macedonian). Nor can the words ‘whose praise is in the Gospel’ be pressed (so St Chrysostom and the Collect for St Luke’s Day) as signifying the Gospel of St Luke. For the word gospel is never used in the Scripture of any of the biographies of Christ, but solely of the good tidings proclaimed by His ministers. The earliest phrase by which the Gospels are designated is ‘memoirs.’ (See Justin Martyr’s First Apology , ch. 67.) If the brother were an Ephesian delegate, he must have been either (2) Trophimus or (3) Tychicus. Both these left Greece with St Paul. The former was an Ephesian’ and accompanied him to Jerusalem. (Acts 21:29 .) The latter was ‘ of Asia ’ (Acts 20:4 ), and probably of Ephesus, for he was twice sent thither by St Paul (Ephesians 6:21 ; 2 Timothy 4:12 ). And he evidently stood high in the estimation of the Apostle (Ephesians 6:21 , Ephesians 6:22 ; Colossians 4:7 , Colossians 4:8 ) for his qualities as a minister of Christ. Both these, however, if the deputies were Ephesians, would most likely have been the messengers. See note on v . 22.

19. and not that only ] i.e. not only is he praised throughout all the Churches.

but who was also chosen of the churches ] i.e. chosen by the Churches. See note on 1 Corinthians 14:24 , ch. 1:16, 2:6, 12 of this Epistle, and Hebrews 12:5 , &c. The word here used signifies chosen by show of hands . So also in Acts 14:23 . Voting by show of hands was the custom among the Greeks as among ourselves. See Xenophon, Anabasis , Book III. ii. 33. For the choosing by the Churches see 1 Corinthians 16:3 , 1 Corinthians 16:4 and note.

to the glory of the same Lord ] The word ‘same’ is omitted by many MSS. and editors.

and declaration of your ready mind ] Nearly all the MSS. and versions read ‘our.’ ( To the glorie of the Lord and to our ordeyned wil . Wiclif.) The words ‘and declaration of’ are not in the Greek.

20. avoiding this ] The word is used in Greek of furling the sails of a vessel to avoid a disaster. It occurs again in the N.T. in 2 Thessalonians 3:6 . But it may perhaps be translated making this arrangement .

that no man should blame us ] Chrysostom and Calvin remark on the care taken by the Apostle to avoid giving the slightest cause for suspicion. He did not, says the former, send Titus alone. “He was not,” says the latter, “so satisfied with himself as to think it unworthy of his dignity to avoid calumny.” And he adds, “certainly nothing exposes a man to unpleasant insinuations more than the management of public money.” “In this is to be observed St Paul’s wisdom, not only as a man of the world, but as a man of God. He knew that he lived in a censorious age, that he was as a city set on a hill, that the world would scan his every act and his every word, and attribute all conceivable and even inconceivable evil to what he did in all honour. It was just because of St Paul’s honour and innocence that he was likely to have omitted this prudence.” Robertson.

abundance ] The Greek word occurs only here in the N.T. It comes from a root meaning firm, solid, compact , or perhaps with some lexicographers, large , and hence extensive, abundant .

21. providing ] Most MSS. and editors here read for we provide , or rather, take care beforehand to do , i.e. it is our custom to give no occasion for suspicion. See Romans 12:17 , where the same words occur. They are, as Dr Plumptre has reminded us, a quotation of Proverbs 3:4 . Cf. also Romans 14:6 ; 1 Timothy 5:14 , 1 Timothy 5:6 :1; Titus 2:8 . Also ch. 6:3.

honest things ] Rather, what is honourable . The word implies what is of good repute among mankind, and hence what is honourable and noble in itself. See note on ch. 4:2.

also in the sight of men ] It is not enough for the Christian to have a clear conscience. He must give no man an opportunity of insinuating that his conscience is not clear. See Matthew 5:14-16 .

22. And we have sent with them ] Literally, as before, v . 18, we sent with them, i.e. with the other two.

our brother, whom we have oftentimes proved diligent ] See for this third brother, the note on v . 18. Dr Plumptre suggests Clement, as one dear to St Paul and known to the Philippians (Philippians 4:3 ).

upon the great confidence which I have in you ] The margin, ‘ he hath,’ is to be preferred. This brother had no doubt been at Corinth, and was quite certain that the Corinthians, in spite of all shortcomings, would in the end come up to St Paul’s highest anticipations.

23. he is my partner ] Literally, sharer . See notes on the words communion and fellowship in the first Epistle. ‘The sharer of my labours and cares.

and fellow-helper concerning you ] Better, and as regards you, my fellow-worker .

the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ ] The word ‘ and ’ is not in the original, and detracts from the force of the sentence. The word here translated ‘messengers’ is Apostles in the original. But here, as in Philippians 2:25 , it does not signify the official rank in the Church of the persons referred to, but simply the fact that they were sent. For ‘the glory of Christ’ see v . 19 and 1 Corinthians 11:7 . A man is the glory of Christ when he manifests Christ’s glory, which is done either by displaying His power, or the holiness which comes from Him. Cf. John 1:14 , John 1:2 :11, John 1:11 :40; Galatians 1:24 , and Acts 21:19 , Acts 21:20 ; also ch. 3:18. Both the brethren would seem from this passage to have been ‘chosen of the Churches.’

24. before the churches ] To which they belong, and of which they are the representatives, vv . 19, 23. The spirit shewn by the Corinthians would of necessity be reported by these delegates to the Churches which had commissioned them. For the expression, literally in the face of , cf. ch. 2:10, 4:6, 5:12 and notes.

our boasting on your behalf ] See ch. 9:2.

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"Commentary on 2 Corinthians 8". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.