Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 9

Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and CollegesCambridge Greek Testament Commentary

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Verses 1-99

Ch. 9:1. For ] i.e. I am not writing to you about the ministry to the saints, for that is unnecessary. I am writing about your reception of the brethren, and your being ready when they come. See v . 3.

the ministering ] Literally, the ministry . See note on ch. 3:3. Anything which conveyed God’s good gifts from one member of the Church to another, was in the Apostle’s eyes a ministry , a diaconate , for the words rendered minister, ministry , are in Greek διάκονος, διακονία . See also note on v . 12 and on ch. 8:4.

it is superfluous for me to write to you ] “Observe the tender wisdom of this proceeding. The charity which finds us unprepared is a call as hateful as that of any creditor whom it is hard to pay. St Paul knew this well; therefore he gave timely notice.” Robertson. It was unnecessary to write to them about the collection itself. It was not unnecessary to remind them as a matter of Christian prudence that they must not allow themselves to be taken unawares, lest the amount of their bounty should hardly correspond to what men had a reason to expect Cf. 1 Corinthians 16:2 . Calvin, however, thinks that the Apostle wavered between confidence and anxiety. He knew their readiness, but he feared the instability of human nature.

2. for I know the forwardness of your mind ] Rather, readiness ( your redynesse of minde . Tyndale). See note on ch. 8:12. And therefore I need not write about the collection.

I boast ] The Apostle, then, says Bengel, was already in Macedonia.

Achaia ] See note on ch. 1:1.

a year ago ] Rather, last year . See ch. 8:10. The Vulgate renders here by ab anno praeterito .

and your zeal hath provoked very many ] “We did not advise, we did not exhort; we only praised you, we only boasted of you; and this was enough for exhortation of them.” Chrysostom. For zeal , see notes on ch. 7:7, 11. Perhaps the Apostle means to say here the emulation arising from your conduct, since the word rendered ‘your’ is literally, arising from you . The word here translated ‘provoke’ is used in a bad sense in Colossians 3:21 . The English word provoke , from the Latin provoco, to call forth , is usually in these days used in a bad sense. But it was not so at the time when the A. V. was made. Cf. Hebrews 10:24 . The meaning here is stirred up . For very many , the original has the majority .

3. Yet have I sent ] Although instructions to make the collection were needless, it was not needless for me to send the brethren. See note on v . 1. For I have sent , the Greek has I sent . But see notes on ch. 8:18, 22, and Introduction.

our boasting ] Literally, ‘our ground of boasting,’ but see ch. 5:12. It was not that St Paul expected no result from the collection, but feared that it might be one out of all proportion to what his expressions of confidence in the Corinthian Church would have led other Churches to expect.

in this behalf ] Rather, in this respect , i.e. in regard to the matter of the collection. He had not hesitated to speak of their other good qualities. See 1 Corinthians 1:4-8 ; and for the expression see ch. 3:10.

4. lest haply ] The earlier editions have happily ( paraventure , Tyndale), with the same meaning as in the text.

they of Macedonia ] We should rather say in English any Macedonians . From this it has been inferred that the brethren sent previously were not Macedonians. See ch. 8:17 24.

we (that we say not, you )] The ‘we’ is emphatic. We have another instance here of what we might call the gentlemanly instinct of the Apostle. See note on ch. 7:3. ‘I should be ashamed of my confidence, and, might I not add, you also would be ashamed that I should have expressed it.’

confident boasting ] The word ‘ boasting ’ is omitted by most recent editors. It is absent from the best MSS. and versions, and has probably been introduced from ch. 11:17. The rendering in this case must be ‘ in this confidence ’ i.e. which I have had in you. Some would render by ‘foundation’ or ‘substance’ ( in hoc substantia , Vulg.), the latter being the literal rendering of the word (see Hebrews 11:1 , also 1:3 where it is translated person ); but in Hebrews 3:14 , as in Classical Greek and in the LXX., it means and is rendered confidence . It means originally (1) that on which one takes one’s stand; or (2) that which stands beneath us. Hence in later Greek theology it came to mean person , as the underlying entity at the root of all apparent being. Compare our English words understand, understanding , which however, like the Latin substantia , have had a different history, and have arrived at a different signification.

5. the brethren ] i.e. those mentioned in the last chapter.

go before ] i.e. before the Apostle.

your bounty, whereof ye had notice before ] Rather, according to the best MSS., ‘your previously announced bounty,’ i.e. either (1) announced by me to the Macedonian Churches; or (2) generally, promised beforehand. The word translated bounty is more usually translated blessing (Vulg. benedictio ). See 1 Corinthians 10:16 ; also Genesis 33:11 ; 1 Samuel 30:26 in the LXX. The gifts of the Corinthians are called a blessing , because they are so to others, and because they call down a blessing on those who impart them. See Dean Stanley’s note, who quotes the well-known passage from the Merchant of Venice , where Portia says that mercy is “twice blessed; it blesseth him that gives and him that takes.”

as a matter of bounty ] Rather, so as to be a blessing .

and not as of covetousness ] Rather, perhaps, greed ; i.e. to be given in a generous and not in a grudging spirit. But Dr Plumptre regards it as possibly referring to St Paul, ‘as a work of your bounty, not of my claims upon your purses.’ Ch. 7:2, 12:17, 18, which he cites, are decidedly in favour of this interpretation. For covetous, covetousness , see 1 Corinthians 5:10 (note).

6. He which soweth sparingly ] “He calls it sowing,” says Chrysostom, “in order that we may learn by the figure of the harvest that in giving we receive more than we give.” Cf. Galatians 6:7-9 ; also Proverbs 11:18 .

bountifully ] Literally, with blessings ( in benedictionibus , Vulg.). In both cases the Greek word is the same.

7. purposeth ] The word, as used in Aristotle, denotes deliberate choice , without any constraint of any kind, as well as free from the impulse of the passions.

grudgingly ] Literally, from sorrow , i.e. out of a sorrowful or unwilling heart. Cf. Exodus 25:2 ; Deuteronomy 15:10 .

cheerful giver ] Cf. Romans 12:8 ; Tobit 4:7; Ecclus. 35:9; and the LXX. of Proverbs 22:8 .

8. all grace ] See notes on grace elsewhere, esp. ch. 8:6 and v . 15 of this chapter; also cf. 1 Corinthians 16:3 . The meaning here is ‘God is able to make every gift of His loving-kindness to abound to you, that you, being thus enriched, may impart of His bounty to others.’

sufficiency ] This is translated contentment in 1 Timothy 6:6 , while the corresponding adjective is rendered content in Philippians 4:11 . But 1 Timothy 6:8 explains the meaning of the word. It is the state of mind which, needing nothing but the barest necessaries, regards all other things as superfluities, to be parted with whenever the needs of others require them. This is the force of the words ‘all’ twice repeated, and ‘always.’ At all times, save when he is actually deprived of food and raiment, the Christian ought to regard himself as having enough. It is worthy of remark that this self-sufficingness was a favourite virtue with heathen philosophers, though destitute, in the case of the Stoics, of all the gentler and more attractive aspects in which it has been wont to present itself among Christians. The use of this word, as of the word noticed in v . 7, seems to shew that St Paul was well acquainted with the philosophy of Aristotle. See also note on ch. 8:14.

9. as it is written ] In Psalms 112:9 .

the poor ] The word here is the usual one in Classical Greek. See notes on ch. 8:9.

his righteousness remaineth for ever ] As this passage is simply quoted from the O. T., it seems unfair to build any theological argument upon it, especially as on points like these the Hebrew language has by no means the precision of the Greek. It probably means no more than this; that a good and charitable deed remains such for evermore. The parenthesis, which in the A. V. includes v . 10, ought to include this verse only.

10. Now he that ministereth ] The word used twice in this verse has the original signification of leading a chorus . Hence it came to mean to defray the expenses of a chorus, since when a wealthy man was appointed to any office of importance in his city, it was usual for him to provide festal displays for the citizens. Hence it came to have the general meaning of furnish, provide , as here.

both minister ] In the best MSS. these verbs are in the future indicative, i.e. will minister; will multiply; will increase (so Wiclif and Tyndale); not, as the received Greek text, in the optative.

bread for your food ] In the Greek these words seem to belong to the former verb, ‘Now he that supplieth seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply,’ &c. The words here are a quotation from the LXX. version of Isaiah 55:10 .

increase the fruits of your righteousness ] Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:30 , 1 Corinthians 3:6 . The words are taken from the LXX. version of Hosea 10:12 . The metaphor is taken from the natural processes of growth just referred to. God supplies the seed of works of mercy; He multiplies it, and good works in plenty are the crop.

11. bountifulness ] ( symplenesse , Wiclif; syngleness , Tyndale). The Greek word here is the same as in ch. 1:12, 8:2, where see notes. The word ‘bountifulness’ was first introduced by our translators, who however have liberality in the margin.

which ] i.e. the ‘bountifulness’ or ‘singlemindness’ just spoken of.

causeth through us thanksgiving ] i.e. your singleness of heart, your absence of all secondary and selfish motives, provides us with the means of alleviating the distresses of others, and thus elicits from them thanks to God out of the fulness of a grateful heart.

12. For the administration of this service ] Literally, For the ministry (see note on v . 1) of this public service ( the mynysterie of this public office , Wiclif; the office of this ministration , Tyndale). The word translated service means any public work. “The λειτουργοὶ ,” says Potter in his Grecian Antiquities , “were persons of considerable estates, who were ordered to perform some public duty or to supply the commonwealth with necessaries at their own expenses.” See also Smith’s Dictionary of Antiquities , Art. Liturgia. Hence comes our word Liturgy, which originally signified any public function, but afterwards became restrained to the Holy Communion only. See, for the word, Luke 1:23 ; Philippians 2:17 , Philippians 2:30 ; Hebrews 8:6 , Hebrews 9:21 . The verb derived from the same source is used of the public services of the Church in Acts 13:2 ; Hebrews 10:11 . In Romans 15:27 it is used in the same sense as here.

is abundant ] Rather, exceedeth , or aboundeth . See note on ‘exceeding joyful,’ ch. 7:4; also ch. 1:11, 4:15.

by many thanksgivings ] Cf. ch. 1:11, 4:15.

13. experiment ] Rather, proof ( probatio , Vulg.), i.e. the proof afforded by the conduct of the Corinthians that they were Christians, not in name only, but in deed. See ch. 2:9, 8:2, 8.

glorify ] Cf. Matthew 5:16 ; John 15:8 ; 1 Peter 2:12 .

your professed subjection ] The translators of the A.V. have regarded this sentence as a Hebraism. Literally, it is the subjection of your confession , or profession , i.e. of Christianity. See 1 Timothy 6:12 , 1 Timothy 6:13 (margin); Hebrews 3:1 , Hebrews 4:14 , Hebrews 10:23 . The brethren at Jerusalem glorified God for the fact that the profession of Christianity made by the Corinthians was in strict accordance with the precepts of the Gospel. It is obvious that this cannot be predicated of every individual, or even of every Church, and cannot therefore be assumed as a matter of course. It is, however, to be observed (see Meyer’s note) that ‘to the Gospel’ should perhaps be translated ‘towards the Gospel,’ i.e. towards the work of furthering it.

and for your liberal distribution ] Literally, and for the liberality of your contribution . The word here rendered distribution in the A. V. is that usually rendered by communion , or fellowship . Here it clearly has the active sense of communication . The Vulgate renders simplicitate communicationis . See notes on 1 Corinthians 1:9 , 1 Corinthians 10:20 . For liberality see v . 11.

and unto all men ] Because the principle thus admitted by the Corinthians was equally applicable to all.

14. and by their prayer for you, which long after you ] The construction in the Greek is somewhat obscure. Some would render (1) as A. V., and regard this verse also as depending upon the word glorify . Others suppose (2) that St Paul has abruptly changed the construction, and would render they themselves, with prayer, earnestly longing to see you . If we accept (1), which also involves a change in the construction of the sentence, the sense is that the prayer of the Jewish Christians and their affection for the Corinthians redounded to the glory of God. If (2), it simply means that the result of the Corinthian bounty would be to draw out a corresponding fervency of affection on the part of the Church at Jerusalem. It is worthy of remark that the Apostle, in his vivid anticipation of the future, regards it as already present.

15. Thanks ] The word is the same which is elsewhere translated grace .

for his unspeakable gift ] This, as Dean Alford suggests (after Chrysostom), can be none other than Jesus Christ Himself. No other gift could correspond to the word ‘unspeakable,’ which suggests (like Romans 11:33 ; Ephesians 3:18 , Ephesians 3:19 ) the idea of God. And in Jesus Christ ‘dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily’ (Colossians 2:9 ). From Him all gifts of nature or grace proceed. And what the gift is which is above all others, we learn from such passages as Romans 5:15 , Romans 5:6 :23; Hebrews 6:4 . So Bengel. “Deus nobis dedit abundantiam bonorum internorum et externorum, quae et ipsa est inenarrabilis, et fructus habet consimiles.” See also Romans 8:32 .

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 2 Corinthians 9". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.