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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 1

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

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Verses 1-2

2 Corinthians 1:1-2 ADDRESS. The usual form of address at the beginning of a Greek letter was A. B. χαίρειν (see Acts 23:26 ); and this is adopted by St. James in his Epistle (James 1:1 ), and is followed, among other Christian writers, by Ignatius in his letters ( πλεῖστα χαίρειν is his ordinary formula). St. Paul, original in this as in all else, struck out a form for himself. He replaces χαίρειν by χάρις καὶ εἰρήνη (1 Thess.), which in subsequent letters is expressed more fully, as here, χάρις καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ Θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ Κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ . (In 1 and 2 Tim. he adds ἔλεος .) The simple greeting of ordinary courtesy is thus filled with a deep religious meaning. Grace is the keynote of the Gospel; and peace , the traditional and beautiful salutation of the East, on Christian lips signifies not earthly peace merely, but the peace of God (Philippians 4:7 ). The first instance of the combination of χάρις with εἰρήνη is noteworthy, viz. , they are coupled in the Priestly Benediction at Numbers 6:24 . ἀπόστολος Χρ . Ἰη .: St. Paul’s letters are all semi-official, except perhaps that to Philemon; and thus they usually begin with the assertion of his apostolic office. This it would be especially necessary to emphasise in a letter to Corinth, where his authority had been questioned quite recently (2 Corinthians 10:10 ff.), and where the names of Apollos and Peter had formerly been set in opposition to his (1 Corinthians 1:12 ). διὰ θελήματος Θεοῦ : he is ever anxious (see reff.) to explain that his apostleship was not assumed of himself; it is a mission from God; he is a σκεῦος ἐκλογῆς . καὶ Τιμόθεος ὁ ἀδελφός : Timothy now occupies the place at St. Paul’s side which was filled by Sosthenes when 1 Cor. was written (1 Corinthians 1:1 ). Timothy had been despatched to Macedonia (Acts 19:22 ) to go on to Corinth (1 Corinthians 4:17 ), but St. Paul seems to have had a suspicion that he might be prevented from arriving there (1 Corinthians 16:10 ). From the facts that we now find him in Macedonia, and that there is no mention of him in chap. 2 Corinthians 12:16-18 , it is likely that he was prevented from reaching Corinth by some causes of which we are unaware. τῆ ἐκκλησίᾳ τοῦ Θεοῦ κ . τ . λ .: the letter is addressed primarily to the Christian congregation at Corinth, and secondarily to the Christians throughout Achaia. It is thus a circular letter, like that to the Galatians or Ephesians, and so at the end we do not find salutations to individuals, as in 1 Cor. and in the other letters addressed to particular Churches. The words τῇ οὔσῃ ἐν Κορίνθῳ suggest the idea of settled establishment; the Church at Corinth had now been for some time in existence. ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ Ἀχαΐᾳ : the Roman province of Achaia included the whole country which we call Greece (excluding Macedonia), and it is in this large sense that the name is used here ( cf. 2 Corinthians 9:2 below).

Verse 2

2 Corinthians 1:2 . ἀπὸ Θεοῦ πατρὸς κ . τ . λ .: this coupling of the names of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ as alike the source of grace and peace is most significant in its bearing upon St. Paul’s Christology ( cf. 2 Corinthians 13:13 ).

I. The Obedience of the Corinthians to the Instructions of the First Epistle (2 Corinthians 1:3 to 2 Corinthians 7:16 ). This is the main topic of the first section of this Epistle. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 : THANKSGIVING; GOD’S CONSOLATIONS AND THE SYMPATHY OF SORROW. St. Paul’s habit is to begin his letters with an expression of thankfulness for the Christian progress of his correspondents. The only exceptions are the Epp. to Titus and to the Galatians (in this case he had received bad news from Galatia). In 1 Timothy 1:12 the cause of his thankfulness is the exhibition of the Divine mercy to himself; and this Epistle begins with a like thought, from which he passes (2 Corinthians 1:14 ) to his confident belief that the Corinthian Christians are still his καύχημα . It was especially important that a letter which was so largely taken up with rebuke and with the assertion of his apostolical authority should begin with a message of sympathy and hopefulness (2 Corinthians 1:11 ff.).

Verse 3

2 Corinthians 1:3 . εὐλογητὸς ὁ Θεὸς κ . τ . λ .: blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . Note that τοῦ Κυρίου is dependent on Θεός as well as on πατήρ ; cf. Ephesians 1:17 , and John 20:17 , Revelation 1:6 . This is the starting-point of the Christian revelation, that the Supreme is “the God and Father” of Jesus Christ; He is εὐλογητός ( בָּרוּךְ ), the Object of His creatures’ blessing. The verb is not expressed, but the analogy of 1 Peter 4:11 would indicate that ἐστίν rather than ἔστω should be understood. A doxology is not a prayer, but ( cf. Matthew 6:13 , and John 12:13 , a close parallel) a thankful and adoring statement of the Divine goodness and power. ὁ πατὴρ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν : the Father of mercies, sc. , from whom merciful acts proceed; οἰκτιρμός , compassion , is the very characteristic of a Father’s providence; see reff. and Luke 6:36 . καὶ Θεὸς πάσης παρακλήσεως : and God of all comfort, sc. , from whom every consolation proceeds. We have παράκλησις applied to God in O.T., e.g. , in Ps. 93:19, αἱ παρακλήσεις σου ἠγάπησαν τὴν ψυχήν μου ; and the word is adopted in the N.T. for the Divine comfort not only by St. Paul (see reff.), but by St. Luke (Luke 2:25 and Acts 9:31 ), and by St. John, who describes alike the Spirit (John 14:16 ; John 15:26 ; John 16:7 ) and the Son (1 John 2:1 ) as the παράκλητος .

Verse 4

2 Corinthians 1:4 . ὁ f1παρακαλῶν ἡμᾶς κ . τ . λ .: who comforteth us in all our affliction (the def. art. indicating trials actually existing). The verb παρακαλεῖν has three shades of meaning, ( a ) to beseech , eighteen times in St. Paul, ( b ) to exhort , seventeen times, ( c ) to comfort , thirteen times, of which seven are in this Epistle, where the word occurs altogether seventeen times. Cf. 2 Corinthians 1:6 , 2 Corinthians 2:7-8 , 2Co 5:20 , 2 Corinthians 6:1 , 2 Corinthians 7:6-7 ; 2 Corinthians 7:13 , 2 Corinthians 8:6 , 2 Corinthians 9:5 , 2 Corinthians 10:1 , 2Co 12:8 ; 2 Corinthians 12:18 , 2 Corinthians 13:11 . εἰς τὸ δύνασθαι κ . τ . λ .: to the end that we may be able to comfort them that are in any affliction ( sc. , any that may happen to arise). This is the final purpose of God’s gifts of grace, viz. , that they may not only be a blessing to the individual, but through him and as reflected from him to his fellows. ἧς παρακαλούμεθα : through the comfort wherewith we ourselves are being comforted of God . ἧς , for ἥν , has been attracted into the case of παρακλήσεως ( cf. 1 Corinthians 6:19 , chap. 2 Corinthians 10:13 , Ephesians 2:10 ).

Verse 5

2 Corinthians 1:5 . ὅτι καθὼς περισσύει κ . τ . λ .: for as Christ’s sufferings flow over abundantly to us, even so our comfort also aboundeth through Christ . That the Christian is a fellow-sufferer with Christ is frequently urged by St. Paul (Romans 8:17 , Philippians 3:10 , Colossians 1:24 ; see esp. chap. 2 Corinthians 4:10-11 below, and cf. Matthew 20:22 ). Here he dwells on the thought that this fellowship in suffering implies also the consolation and strength which flow from union with Christ; cf. 1 Peter 4:13 .

Verses 6-7

2 Corinthians 1:6-7 . We follow the reading of the Revisers (see crit. note) and translate: But whether we be afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or whether we be comforted, it is for your comfort, which worketh in the patient endurance of the same things which we also suffer: and our hope for you is steadfast; knowing that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so also are ye of the comfort . This is an expansion of the εἰς τὸ δύνασθαι κ . τ . λ . of 2 Corinthians 1:4 : the Apostle’s afflictions and consolations alike are for the sake of his converts; they and he have a common fellowship in Christ, with all which that involves of sympathy with each other. The nearest parallel (see reff.) is Ephesians 3:13 , διὸ αἰτοῦμαι μὴ ἐνκακεῖν ἐν ταῖς θλίψεσίν μου ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν , ἥτις ἐστὶν δόξα ὑμῶν . For the constr. εἴτε … εἴτε cf. chap. 2 Corinthians 5:13 and 1 Corinthians 12:26 . Note that ἐνεργεῖσθαι is always in the N.T. middle , not passive , and is used intransitively (see Romans 7:5 , chap. 2 Corinthians 4:12 , Galatians 5:6 , Ephesians 3:20 , Colossians 1:29 , 1 Thessalonians 2:13 ); when the verb is used of God it is always in the active voice (1 Corinthians 12:6 , Galatians 2:8 , etc.). ἐν ὑπομονῇ : ὑπομονή means expectation or hopeful waiting in the canonical books of the LXX; but is often used for steadfast endurance in Ecclus. and in 4 Macc. (see 4Ma 17:12 ). It is a favourite word with St. Paul in this latter sense, in which it is always used in the N.T. ( cf., e.g. , Luke 21:19 , 1 Timothy 6:11 ); for the juxtaposition of ὑπομονή and παράκλησις see Romans 15:5 . τῶν f1αὐτῶν παθημάτων : the sufferings which the Corinthian brethren must endure are here represented as the same as those of the Apostle; i.e. , the reference is not to any special affliction such as that alluded to in 2 Corinthians 1:8 , but to the troubles which came upon him in the general discharge of his Apostolic office and upon all those who were engaged in the struggle against Judaism on the one side and heathendom on the other.

Verse 7

2 Corinthians 1:7 . καὶ ἡ ἐλπὶς κ . τ . λ .: and our hope for you is steadfast, knowing (we should expect εἰδότων , but cf. Romans 13:11 ) that as ye are partakers of the sufferings (see reff. for κοινωνός with a gen. objecti ), so also are ye of the comfort . The main idea of this section is well given by Bengel: “Communio sanctorum … egregie representatur in hac epistola”.

Verses 8-11

2 Corinthians 1:8-11 . HIS RECENT PERIL. 2 Corinthians 1:8 . οὐ γὰρ θέλομεν κ . τ . λ .: for we would not have you ignorant, brethren, about (for ὑπέρ with gen. in this sense, cf. chap. 2Co 8:23 , 2 Corinthians 12:8 , 2 Thessalonians 2:1 ) our affliction which happened in Asia, that we were weighed down exceedingly, beyond our power, insomuch that we despaired even of life . Having spoken in general terms of the Divine comfort in times of trouble, he goes on to mention his own particular case, the “affliction which befel him in Asia”. What was this? Asia almost certainly means Ephesus , where he had lately been exposed to many adversaries (1 Corinthians 15:32 ; 1 Corinthians 16:9 ). We naturally think of the tumult recorded in Acts 19:23 ff.; but the language here used is so strong that he must have been exposed to something worse than a temporary riot. He was “weighed down beyond his power” ( ὑπὲρ δύναμιν , a phrase which he never uses elsewhere, and which is specially remarkable from the pen of one who always gloried in the Divine δύναμις granted to him, of which he said πάντα ἰσχύω ἐν τῷ ἐνδυναμοῦντί με , Philippians 4:13 ); he “despaired of life,” and yet he describes in this very Epistle (2 Corinthians 4:8 ) his general attitude in tribulation as “perplexed, yet not despairing”. Nor have we knowledge of any persecution at Ephesus so violent as to justify such language, though no doubt the allusion may be to something of the kind. Whatever the “affliction” was, the Corinthians were acquainted with it, for St. Paul does not enter into details, but mentions it only to inform them of its gravity, and to assure them of his trust in his ultimate deliverance. On the whole, it seems most likely that the reference is to grievous bodily sickness, which brought the Apostle down to the gates of death (see 2 Corinthians 1:9 , and cf. chap. 2 Corinthians 4:10 and 2 Corinthians 12:7 ff.). Such an affliction would be truly ὑπὲρ δύναμιν ; and it would be necessary to contemplate its recurrence (2 Corinthians 1:10 ). St. Paul in this Epistle, with unusual frequency, uses the plural ἡμεῖς when speaking of himself; sometimes this can be explained by the fact that Timothy was associated with him in the writing of the letter (2 Corinthians 1:1 ), but in other passages ( e.g. , 2 Corinthians 1:10 , 2 Corinthians 5:13 ; 2Co 5:16 , 2 Corinthians 10:7 ; 2 Corinthians 10:11 ; 2 Corinthians 10:15 , 2 Corinthians 11:21 ) such an explanation will not suit the context, which demands the individual application of the pronoun.

Verse 9

2 Corinthians 1:9 . ἀλλὰ αὐτοὶ κ . τ . λ .: nay, we ourselves had the sentence of death in ourselves; i.e. , the danger was so great that the sentence of death had been already pronounced, as it were. ἀπόκριμα might mean “answer,” as the Revisers translate it (they give sentence , with the A.V., in their margin); cf. the verb ἀποκρίνειν . But in the other places where this rare word is found ( e.g. , Jos., Ant. , xiv. 10, 6, and an inscription of 51 A.D., quoted by Deissmann, Neue Bibelstudien , p. 85) it stands for an official decision or sentence. Cf. κρίμα θανάτου , “the sentence of death” ( Sir 41:3 ). The tense of ἐσχήκαμεν is noteworthy; it seems to be a kind of historical perfect, used like an aorist ( cf. chap. 2 Corinthians 2:13 , 2 Corinthians 11:25 , Revelation 5:7 ; Revelation 8:5 , for a similar usage). ἵνα μὴ πεποιθότες κ . τ . λ .: i.e. , “the gravity of the danger was such as to impress upon me the vanity of putting my trust anywhere save in God, who has the power of life and death”. God can “raise the dead” (see chap. 2 Corinthians 4:14 ); much more can He bring back the dying from the gates of death.

Verse 10

2 Corinthians 1:10 . ὅς ἐκ τηλικ . κ . τ . λ .: who delivered us out of so great a death, and will deliver (reading ῥύσεται ). The form of words recalls Romans 15:31 and 2 Timothy 4:17-18 , which would give some support to the theory that the great peril in question was persecution at the hands of opponents; but (as we have said on 2 Corinthians 1:8 ) it seems more probable that the Apostle’s deliverance was from a dangerous illness. It is possible, indeed, that we have here a reminiscence of Job 33:30 , ἐρύσατο τὴν ψυχήν μου ἐκ θανάτου , which would confirm this interpretation. Note that the preposition is ἐκ , not ἀπό ; ἀπό would only indicate deliverance from the neighbourhood of a danger; ἐκ indicates emergence from a danger to which one has actually been exposed (see Chase, Lord’s Prayer in the Early Church , pp. 71 ff.). Cf. with the whole phrase 2 Timothy 4:17-18 , ἐρύσθην ἐκ στόματος λέοντος , ῥύσεταί με ὁ κύριος κ . τ . λ . εἰς ὃν ἠλπίκαμεν : towards whom we have set our hope . εἰς with the acc. (see reff.) expresses the direction towards which hope looks; ἐπί with the dat. after ἐλπίζειν (1 Timothy 4:10 ; 1 Timothy 6:17 ) rather indicates that in which hope rests. Cf. Psalms 4:6 , ἐλπίσατε ἐπὶ κύριον . The perfect ἠλπίκαμεν here has its full force, viz. , “towards whom we have set our hope, and continue to do so”; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:19 , 1Ti 5:5 ; 1 Timothy 6:17 . καὶ ἔτι ῥύσεται : the force of ἔτι (if indeed it be part of the true text: see crit. note) is to carry the mind on to the perils of the future, as distinguished from those of the present: He will continue to deliver us .

Verse 11

2 Corinthians 1:11 . συνυπουργούντων καὶ ὑμῶν κ . τ . λ .: ye also helping together on our behalf by your supplication; i.e. , apparently, “helping me ”. St. Paul claims that the sympathy of his converts with him shall be exhibited by their prayers for him. δέησις is prayer for a particular object, as contrasted with the more general προσευχή (Ephesians 6:18 ). ἵνα ἐκ πολλῶν προσώπων κ . τ . λ : that from many faces ( sc. , as if upturned in thanksgiving) thanks be given on our behalf through many for the gift bestowed on us . πρόσωπον came to mean “person” in later Greek, but it never can be thus translated in the N.T., save in the phrase λαμβάνειν πρόσωπον (Luke 20:21 , Galatians 2:6 ) or θαυμάζειν πρόσωπα (Jude 1:16 ), “to respect the person” of anyone. Even in these passages λαμβάνεις πρόσωπον is a Hebraism which originally meant “raise the face” (see Plummer on Luke 20:21 ). πρόσωπον is used ten times elsewhere in this Epistle in its ordinary sense of “face” (chap. 2 Corinthians 2:10 , 2Co 3:7 ; 2 Corinthians 3:13 ; 2 Corinthians 3:18 , 2Co 4:6 , 2 Corinthians 5:12 , 2 Corinthians 8:24 , 2Co 10:1 ; 2 Corinthians 10:7 , 2 Corinthians 11:20 ; cf. also 1 Corinthians 13:12 ; 1 Corinthians 14:25 , Galatians 1:22 ). Hence we cannot follow the English versions in translating ἐκ πολλῶν προσώπων “by many persons” in this verse, an additional difficulty in the way of such a rendering being that it would require ὑπό , not ἐκ . πρόσωπον is a face , and the image in the writer’s mind is that of faces upturned in prayer, the early Christian (and the Jewish) attitude of prayer being one of standing with uplifted eyes and outstretched arms ( cf. Psalms 27:2 , Matthew 6:5 , 1 Timothy 2:8 , and Clem. Rom., § 29). The general thought, of the united thanksgivings of many persons, is found twice again in the Epistle in somewhat similar contexts (see reff.). χάρισμα and εὐχαριστεῖν (the passive is found here only in N.T.) are favourite words with St. Paul, the former occurring sixteen times in his Epistles and only once elsewhere in the N.T. (1 Peter 4:10 ).

Verses 12-14

2 Corinthians 1:12-14 . THEY MUST ACKNOWLEDGE HIS SINCERITY OF PURPOSE. He claims that he has always been frank and open in his dealings with the Corinthian Christians: cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:3 . ἡ γὰρ καύχησις κ . τ . λ .: for our glorying is this . Note καύχησις , not καύχημα , as at 2 Corinthians 1:14 , which is rather the thing boasted of than the act of boasting. καυχάομαι and its cognates are peculiarly frequent in this Epistle (see Introd. , p. 27). τὸ μαρτύριον τῆς συνειδήσεως ἡμῶν : viz., the testimony of our conscience . μαρτύριον is the thing testified to by conscience, as contrasted with μαρτυρία , the act of testimony. συνείδησις , “conscientia,” represents the self sitting in judgment on self, a specially Greek idea, and taken over by St. Paul from Greek thought; the word is a favourite one with him, both in his Epistles and in his speeches (Acts 23:1 ; Acts 24:16 ). ὅτι ἐν ἁγιότητι καὶ εἰλικρινείᾳ f1Θεοῦ : that in holiness and sincerity of God ( cf. chap. 2 Corinthians 4:2 ). The received reading, ἁπλότητι , probably arose from the fact that while ἁπλότης occurs four times in this Epistle, and is a specially Pauline word, ἁγιότης is rare, only occurring in the Greek Bible twice elsewhere ( 2Ma 15:2 , Hebrews 12:10 ). The etymology of εἰλικρινεία (see reff.) is uncertain; but the meaning is not doubtful. The force of the genitive τοῦ Θεοῦ is somewhat the same as in the phrase δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ (Romans 3:21 ); the holiness and sincerity which St. Paul claims as characterising his conduct are Divine qualities, and in so far as they are displayed in men they are God’s gift, as he goes on to explain. οὐκ ἐν σοφίᾳ σαρκικῇ κ . τ . λ .: not in fleshly wisdom, but in God’s grace, sc. , which had been vouchsafed to him for the due discharge of his apostolic office (Romans 1:5 ; Romans 12:3 ; Rom 15:15 , 1 Corinthians 3:10 , Ephesians 3:2 ). Especially in the Corinthian letters does St. Paul insist on this, that his power is not that of human wisdom ( 1Co 2:4 ; 1 Corinthians 2:13 , chap. 2 Corinthians 10:4 ). The word σαρκικός is found five times in his letters, and only twice elsewhere in N.T. It signifies that which belongs to the nature of the σάρξ of man, as contrasted with σάρκινος , “made of flesh,” which is the stronger word ( cf. 2 Corinthians 3:3 below). ἀνεστράφημεν ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ : did we behave ourselves in the world, sc. , the heathen world ( cf. 1 Corinthians 5:10 , Philippians 2:15 ). περισσοτέρως δὲ πρὸς ὑμᾶς : and more abundantly to you-ward, sc. , perhaps because his opportunities at Corinth had been greater than elsewhere of displaying the holiness and sincerity of the Christian life.

Verse 13

2 Corinthians 1:13 . οὐ γὰρ ἄλλα κ . τ . λ .: for we write none other things unto you than what ye read ( ἀναγινώσκειν always means “to read” in St. Paul’s Epp. and throughout the N.T.) or even acknowledge; i.e. , there is no hidden meaning in his letters; he means what he says, as to which doubts seem to have been prevalent at Corinth (chap. 2 Corinthians 10:10-11 ). The play upon words ἀναγινώσκετε … ἐπιγινώσκετε cannot be reproduced in English. St. Paul is fond of such paronomasia; see, e.g. , γινωσκομένη … ἀναγινωσκομένη , chap. 2 Corinthians 3:2 ; φρονεῖν , ὑπερφρονεῖν , σωφρονεῖν , Romans 12:3 ; συνκρίνω , ἀνκρίνω , 1 Corinthians 2:13-14 ; ἐργαζόμενοι … περιεργαζόμενοι , 2 Thessalonians 3:11 ; cf. for other illustrations 1 Corinthians 7:31 ; 1Co 11:31 ; 1 Corinthians 12:2 , Philippians 3:2 , Ephesians 5:15 , and chaps 2 Corinthians 4:8 , 2 Corinthians 10:12 below. ἀλλʼ ἤ is equivalent to “except”; cf. Job 6:5 , Isaiah 42:19 . ἐλπίζω δὲ ὅτι κ . τ . λ .: and I hope that ye will acknowledge unto the end, sc. , unto the day of the Lord’s appearing (as in 1 Corinthians 1:8 ), when the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed.

Verse 14

2 Corinthians 1:14 . καθὼς καὶ ἐπέγνωτε κ . τ . λ .: as also ye did acknowledge us in part; i.e., some of them made this acknowledgment, but not all (1 Corinthians 3:4 ). ὅτι καύχημα ὑμῶν ἐσμεν : that (not “because”) we are your glorying ( cf. 2 Corinthians 5:12 ); that is, the Corinthian Church was proud of its connexion with the great Apostle, and still “gloried” in him. καθάπερ καὶ ὑμεῖς ἡμῶν κ . τ . λ .: as ye also are ours, in the day of our Lord Jesus . Lest this assertion of his single-mindedness and integrity should seem to claim any undue superiority to his fellow Christians at Corinth, he hastens to add, parenthetically, with remarkable tact, that if he is their “glory” so are they his. He constantly thinks thus of his converts; cf., e.g. , Philippians 2:16 and 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 . ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τοῦ Κυρίου Ἰησοῦ : “A day of the Lord,” “The Day of the Lord” are common expressions in the prophets; cf. Isaiah 13:6 ; Isaiah 13:9 , Jeremiah 46:10 , Ezekiel 30:3 , Zechariah 14:1 , Joel 1:15 ; Joel 2:1 ; Joel 2:11 ; Joel 2:31 (cited Acts 2:20 ), etc. And the phrase is taken up by St. Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:2 , 1 Corinthians 1:8 ; 1 Corinthians 5:5 ; cf. Philippians 1:10 , 2 Timothy 1:12 ), and is applied to the Second Advent of Christ; cf. also 2 Peter 3:10 , and Matthew 24:42 .

Verses 15-22

2 Corinthians 1:15-22 . HIS CHANGE OF PLAN WAS NOT DUE TO FICKLENESS. καὶ ταύτῃ τῇ πεποιθήσει ἐβουλόμην κ . τ . λ .: and in this confidence ( sc. , that they would acknowledge his sincerity) I was minded to come before ( sc. , before he went to Macedonia) unto you, that ye might have a second benefit . The circumstances seem to have been as follows. While St. Paul was at Ephesus (Acts 19:0 ) his intention had been to cross the Ægean to Corinth, thence to visit Macedonia, and then to come back to Corinth on his way to Judæa with the contributions which he had gathered ( cf. 1 Corinthians 16:3-4 ). The Corinthians would thus have enjoyed a “second benefit” ( cf. Romans 1:11 ; Romans 15:29 ), inasmuch as he would have visited them both on his way to Macedonia, and on his return journey. This project he had communicated to them, probably in the letter which is lost (1 Corinthians 5:9 ). But he received bad news from Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:11 ), and he wrote 1 Cor. in reply. In this letter (1 Corinthians 16:5 ) he incidentally mentioned that he had changed his plans, and that he now proposed to travel from Ephesus to Corinth viâ Macedonia, the route which he adopted in the sequel (Acts 20:1 ff., chap. 2 Corinthians 2:12 , 2 Corinthians 7:5 ). When the Corinthians heard of this, they began to reproach him with fickleness of purpose (chap. 2 Corinthians 1:17 ), and the charge came to his ears. We have his defence in the verses (15 22) before us.

Verse 16

2 Corinthians 1:16 . προπεμφθῆναι : “to be set forward on my journey”. The practice of speeding fellow-Christians on their journeys, of “seeing them off” in safety, is often mentioned in Acts , and is inculcated more than once as a duty by St. Paul (see reff.).

Verse 17

2 Corinthians 1:17 . τοῦτο οὖν βουλόμενος κ . τ . λ .: when therefore I was thus minded, did I shew fickleness? The article τῇ before ἐλαφρίᾳ can hardly be pressed so as to convey the meaning “ that fickleness which you lay to my charge”; it is merely generic. ἢ ἃ βουλεύομαι κ . τ . λ .: or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that there should be with me the Yea, yea, and the Nay, nay? That is, “Are my plans made like those of a worldly man, that they may be changed according to my own caprice, Yes to-day, No to-morrow?” His argument is that, although the details of his original plan had been altered, yet in spirit and purpose it was unchanged; there is no room for any charge of inconsistency or fickleness. His principles of action are unchangeable, as is the Gospel which he preaches. He had promised to go to Corinth, and he would go. For a similar use of the phrase κατὰ σάρκα see reff., and cf. chap. 2 Corinthians 5:16 . The reduplication ναὶ ναὶ … οὔ οὔ is not altogether easy to explain; but we have ναὶ ναὶ repeated similarly in Matthew 5:37 , and perhaps we may also compare the Ἀμὴν , Ἀμήν of St. John’s Gospel ( e.g. , 2 Corinthians 10:1 ). Some critics ( e.g. , Steck) have regarded ναὶ ναὶ … οὔ οὔ here as an actual quotation from Matthew 5:37 . But apart from the fact that this opinion rests on a quite untenable theory as to the date of this Epistle (see Introd. , p. 12), the context of the words will not lend itself to any such interpretation (see above).

Verse 18

2 Corinthians 1:18 . πιστὸς δὲ ὁ Θεὸς ὅτι κ . τ . λ .: but as God is faithful, our word, etc. For the construction, cf. the similar forms of asseveration ζῇ κύριος ὅτι , “as the Lord liveth” (1 Samuel 20:3 , 2 Samuel 2:27 ), and ἔστιν ἀλήθεια Χριστοῦ ἐν ἐμοὶ ὅτι , “as the truth of Christ is in me” (2 Corinthians 11:10 ). For πιστός as applied to God, see Deuteronomy 7:9 , 1 Corinthians 1:9 ; 1Co 10:13 , 1 Thessalonians 5:24 , 2 Thessalonians 3:3 , 2 Timothy 2:13 , and cf. 1 Samuel 15:29 . ὁ λόγος ἡμῶν ὁ πρὸς ὑμᾶς οὐκ ἔστιν Ναὶ καὶ Οὔ : our word ( sc. , my personal communications about my journey, as well as the message of the Gospel) towards you is not Yea and Nay . I do not deceive you or vacillate in my purpose: cf. 2 Corinthians 2:17 .

Verse 19

2 Corinthians 1:19 . He has appealed to the faithfulness of God, and this suggests the thought of the unchangeableness of Christ. ὁ τοῦ Θεοῦ γὰρ υἱὸς κ . τ . λ .: for the Son of God, Christ Jesus, who was proclaimed among you by us . The position of τοῦ Θεοῦ before γάρ (as in the true text) brings out the sequence of thought better, as it brings Θεοῦ (the connecting word) into prominence. διʼ ἐμοῦ καὶ Σιλουανοῦ καὶ Τιμοθέου : even by me and Silvanus and Timothy . These three brought the Gospel to Corinth (Acts 18:5 ), and were closely associated during the Apostle’s labours in that city (1 Thessalonians 1:1 , 2 Thessalonians 1:1 ). Silvanus is only another form of the name Silas ; he was a prophet (Acts 15:32 ), and apparently, like St. Paul, a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37 ), and shared the Apostle’s perils during the whole of his second missionary journey (Acts 15:40 to Acts 18:18 ). We hear of him again at Rome (1 Peter 5:12 ). οὐκ ἐγένετο ναὶ καὶ οὔ , ἀλλὰ ναὶ ἐν αυτῷ γέγονεν : was not Yea and Nay, but in Him is ( sc. , has been and continues to be) Yea . There is no doubtfulness or vacillation in the words of Christ (Matthew 7:29 , John 12:50 ); and He continually emphasised the positive and certain character of His teaching by the introductory formula Ἀμὴν , ἀμήν . More than this, however, is involved here. Christ, who is the Object and Sum of St. Paul’s preaching, is unchangeable (Hebrews 13:8 ), for He is not only “true” (Revelation 3:7 ), but “the Truth” (John 14:6 ): He is, in brief, ὁ Ἀμήν (Revelation 3:14 ), and so it may be said that an Eternal “Yea” has come into being ( γέγονεν , through His incarnate Life) in Him.

Verse 20

2 Corinthians 1:20 . ὅσαι γὰρ ἐπαγγελίαι κ . τ . λ .: for how many soever be the promises of God, in Him is the Yea . Not only was Christ a διάκονος περιτομῆς … εἰς τὸ βεβαιῶσαι τὰς ἐπαγγελίας τῶν πατέρων (Romans 15:8 ), but He is Himself, in His own Person, the true fulfilment and recapitulation of them all ( cf. Galatians 3:8 ). διὸ καὶ διʼ αὐτοῦ τὸ Ἀμήν κ . τ . λ .: wherefore also through Him is the “Amen,” to the glory of God, through us . The reading of the received text conceals the force of these words. It is because Christ is the consummation, the “Yea” of the Divine promises, that the “Amen” is specially fitting at the close of doxologies in public worship (1 Corinthians 14:16 ). The thought of the fulfilment of God’s promises naturally leads to a doxology (Romans 15:9 ), to which a solemn Ἀμήν , the Hebrew form of the Greek ναί , whose significance as applied to Christ has just been expounded, is a fitting climax. διʼ ἡμῶν in this clause includes, of course, both St. Paul and his correspondents; it refers, indeed, to the general practice of Christians in their public devotions.

Verse 21

2 Corinthians 1:21 . ὁ δὲ βεβαιῶν κ . τ . λ .: now He that stablisheth us with you into Christ and anointed us is God , etc. For the form of the sentence cf. chap. 2 Corinthians 5:5 . The ultimate ground of St. Paul’s steadfastness in Christ is God Himself; and having been led on to say this, he adds σὺν ὑμῖν , in order to introduce (as he does at every opportunity in the early part of the Epistle) the idea of unity between him and his Corinthian converts. The play on words Χριστόν … χρίσας is obvious; the only other place in the N.T. where the idea is found of the “anointing” of the Christian believer by God is 1 John 2:20 ; 1 John 2:27 , ὑμεῖς χρίσμα ἔχετε ἀπὸ τοῦ ἁγίου . Deissmann has pointed out ( Bibelstudien , p. 104) that βεβαιόω and ἀρραβών (see note below) are both technical terms belonging to the law courts ( cf. Leviticus 25:23 , LXX), and that βεβαιῶν is here deliberately used rather than κυριῶν (Galatians 3:15 ), or any other such word.

Verse 22

2 Corinthians 1:22 . ὁ καὶ σφρ . ἡμᾶς κ . τ . λ .: who also sealed us ( sc. , all Christians), and gave us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts . The aorists, σφραγισάμενος … δούς , point to acts completed at a definite moment in the past; and this can only mean the moment of baptism . This, too, is the best explanation of the parallel passages, Ephesians 1:13 ; Ephesians 4:30 . The gift of the Holy Spirit is repeatedly mentioned as consequent on baptism (Acts 2:38 ; Acts 19:6 ); and the σφραγίς , or “seal” of baptism, is a common image in early Christian literature ( e.g. , [2 Clem.,] § 8, τηρήσατε … τὴν σφραγῖδα ἄσπιλον ). The “seal” of the Church is given by St. Paul (2 Timothy 2:19 ) as “The Lord knoweth them that are His” (Numbers 16:5 ), and “Let every one that nameth the Name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness” (Isaiah 52:11 ; cf. Numbers 16:26 , Isaiah 26:13 ). The ἀρραβών (see an exhaustive note in Pearson, On the Creed , 7), i.e. , עֵרָבוֹן , is a first instalment, given in pledge of full payment in due course; see reff. and cf. Romans 8:16 , τὸ πνεῦμα συνμαρτυρεῖ τῷ πνεύματι ἡμῶν ὅτι ἐσμὲν τέκνα Θεοῦ : here is the ἀπαρχή τοῦ πνεύματος (Romans 8:23 ). For the constr. διδόναι ἐν cf. Ezekiel 36:26 , John 3:35 , Acts 4:12 , chap. 2Co 8:1 ; 2 Corinthians 8:16 .

Verse 23

2 Corinthians 1:23 . ἐγὼ δὲ μάρτυρα τὸν Θεὸν ἐπικ . κ . τ . λ .: but ( sc. , whatever my opponents may say) I invoke God as a witness against my soul, sc. , if I speak falsely; cf. Romans 1:9 , Galatians 1:20 , Philippians 1:8 , 1 Thessalonians 2:5 ; 1 Thessalonians 2:10 . For ἐπί used in this way cf. εἰς μαρτύριον ἐπʼ αὐτούς (Luke 9:5 ). The A.V. and R.V. “ upon my soul” do not bring out the sense clearly. ὅτι φειδόμενος ὑμῶν κ . τ . λ .: that to spare you I came not again to Corinth, i.e. , “I paid no fresh visit,” “I gave up the thought of coming”. The A.V., “I came not as yet ,” is here quite misleading ( cf. 2 Corinthians 13:2 and 1 Corinthians 4:21 ).

Verses 23-24


Verse 24

2 Corinthians 1:24 . This verse is parenthetical, and introduced to guard against misunderstanding. οὐχ ὅτι κυριεύομεν ὑμῶν τῆς πίστεως : not that we have lordship over your faith . This is not the department of his Apostolic authority ( cf. Luke 22:25 , 1 Peter 5:3 ). ἀλλὰ συνεργοί κ . τ . λ .: but we are (only) fellow-workers in (producing) your joy ; a parenthesis within a parenthesis, not necessary to the sense, but added to emphasise once more his sense of the common ties between him and the Corinthians ( cf. Romans 16:3 , chap. 2 Corinthians 8:23 , Colossians 4:11 ). τῇ γὰρ πίστει ἑστήκατε : for by your faith ye stand . If it were dominated by the authority of another, it would not be thus the instrument of their steadfastness. Another (inferior) interpretation is, “As regards your faith ye stand,” i.e. , “I have no fault to find with you so far as your faith is concerned”; but the parallel, Romans 11:20 , seems to fix the dative as instrumental.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 1". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/egt/2-corinthians-1.html. 1897-1910.
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