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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 2

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

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Verse 1

2 Corinthians 2:1 . ἔκρινα δὲ ἐμαυτῷ τοῦτο κ . τ . λ .: but I decided this for my own sake, that I would not come again to you with sorrow; i.e. , I determined that my next visit should not be painful, as my last was. The juxtaposition of πάλιν with ἐν λύπῃ (see crit. note) requires that interpretation. Hence the former visit in St. Paul’s mind could not have been his first visit to Corinth (Acts 18:1 ff.), for that was not ἐν λύπῃ . And thus we are forced to conclude that another visit was paid from Ephesus, of which no details have been preserved ( cf. 2 Corinthians 12:14 , 2 Corinthians 13:1 ). The conditions of the scanty evidence available seem best satisfied by supposing that St. Paul’s second visit to Corinth was paid from Ephesus during the period Acts 19:10 . Alarming news had probably reached him, and he determined to make enquiries for himself. On his return to Ephesus he wrote the letter (now lost) alluded to in 1 Corinthians 5:9 , in which he charged the Corinthians “to keep no company with fornicators”. Subsequently to this he again received distressing intelligence (1 Corinthians 1:11 ; 1 Corinthians 5:1 , etc.), whereupon he wrote the first canonical Epistle (see Introd. , p. 7).

Verse 2

2 Corinthians 2:2 . εἰ γὰρ ἐγὼ κ . τ . λ .: for if I make you sorry, who then is he that makes me glad, but he who is made sorry by me? His argument is: When I make you sorry, it is that you may repent (see chap. 2 Corinthians 7:9 ), and so gladden me: my change of purpose was not prompted by the desire of giving pain, but on the contrary by my fear that, if I visited you as I had intended, you would sadden me: I should have had to grieve, and be grieved by those who are the source of my purest joy. With the introductory καὶ τίς , “Who then,” the implied answer being “No one,” cf. Mark 10:26 , καὶ τίς δύναται σωθῆναι , and chap. 2 Corinthians 2:16 .

Verse 3

2 Corinthians 2:3 . καὶ ἔγραψα τοῦτο αὐτὸ : and I wrote this very thing; i.e. , I communicated my change of plan (1 Corinthians 16:5 ff.). So ἔκρινα τοῦτο in 2 Corinthians 2:1 . (The translation “just for this reason,” taking τοῦτο αὐτό adverbially, is also admissible; cf. 2 Peter 1:5 ). ἵνα μὴ ἐλθὼν λύπην κ . τ . λ .: lest when I came I should have sorrow from them from whom I ought to rejoice . ἀφʼ ὧν is for ἀπ ἐκείνων ἀφʼ ὧν ; cf. 1 Peter 2:12 ; 1 Peter 3:16 . πεποιθὼς ἐπὶ πάντας ὑμᾶς κ . τ . λ .: having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all; i.e. , having confidence in the perfect sympathy between himself and his correspondents. He could only be made glad if they were made glad; and so to visit them for the purpose of rebuking them would be as painful to him as to them. Observe the repeated πάντας … πάντων : despite the factions in Corinth (1 Corinthians 3:4 ) he must think of them all as his friends ( cf. 2 Corinthians 13:13 ).

Verse 4

2 Corinthians 2:4 . ἐκ γὰρ πολλῆς θλίψεως κ . τ . λ .: for out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears . This describes the state of mind in which he wrote 1 Cor. , if the view of the situation which has been adopted in this commentary be correct (see Introd. , p. 13). διὰ πολλῶν δακρύων : we have διά used, somewhat similarly, with the genitive of the attendant circumstances, in Romans 2:27 ; Romans 4:11 ; Romans 8:25 ; Romans 14:20 , chap. 2 Corinthians 5:7 , Hebrews 12:1 , Revelation 21:24 , etc. οὐχ ἵνα λυπηθῆτε κ . τ . λ .: not that ye should be made sorry, but that ye should know the love which I have so abundantly to you . ἀγάπη , as a grace especially to be exhibited in Christian intercourse, is repeatedly dwelt on by St. Paul. The word has been described as “ecclesiastical” and as having been first introduced to literature in the LXX. But it has been recently found in papyri of the Ptolemaic period (Deissmann, Bibel-studien , p. 81), and it thus appears that the LXX only took over a word already current in the speech of Greek Egypt. Here the position of ἀγάπην before ἵνα gives it special emphasis; cf. , for a like order, Acts 19:4 , Romans 11:31 . περισσοτέρως may mean “more abundantly,” sc. , than to other Churches; but it is quite legitimate to take it as used without any special comparative force ( cf. 2 Corinthians 10:8 ).

Verse 5

2 Corinthians 2:5 . εἰ δέ τις λελύπηκεν κ . τ . λ .: but if any one, sc. , the incestuous person of 1 Corinthians 5:1 , his name being suppressed with a rare delicacy of feeling, hath caused sorrow, he hath caused sorrow, not to me, sc. , I am not the person directly aggrieved, but to some extent ( that I press not too heavily on him ) to you all . That is to say to the words ἀπὸ μέρους are added by the Apostle ἵνα μὴ ἐπιβαρῶ ( sc. , αὐτόν ). The sentence has been otherwise construed “he hath not caused sorrow to me [alone], but [only] in part [having caused sorrow to you also]: [this I add] that I may not press heavily on you all,” sc. , by representing myself as the only person aggrieved. But this would require εἰ μή instead of ἀλλά , and, further, does not suit the context so well as the rendering given above, which treats ἵνα μὴ ἐπιβαρῶ as parenthetic.

Verses 5-11


Verse 6

2 Corinthians 2:6 . ἱκανὸν τῷ τοιούτῳ κ . τ . λ .: sufficient to such an one (the word used in 1 Corinthians 5:5 to indicate the offender) is this punishment ( which was inflicted ) by the majority . The directions given by the Apostle for dealing with the offender had probably been carried out with harshness and severity; he now suggests that the punishment might be remitted, and the guilty man forgiven. ἐπιτιμία in the Attic orators is used for “the possession of political rights,” but it came to mean (see reff.) penalty or requital ; the punishment (see 1 Corinthians 5:5 ) would seem to have been of a disciplinary , and not merely punitive , character; it was probably like the formal excommunication of a later age ( cf. also 1 Timothy 1:20 ), and involved the exclusion of the guilty person from the privileges of the Christian Society. That it was inflicted only by “the majority” (for so we must translate τῶν πλειόνων ; see reff.) is sufficiently accounted for by remembering the presence of an anti-Pauline party at Corinth, who would not be likely to follow the Apostle’s instructions. The construction ἱκανὸν … ἡ ἐπιτιμία ( ἐστι , rather than ἔστω , is the verb to be supplied) affords an instance of a neuter adjectival predicate set over against a feminine subject ( cf. Matthew 6:34 ); ἱκανὸν seems to be used here like the Latin satis.

Verse 7

2 Corinthians 2:7 . ὥστε τοὐναντίον μᾶλλον κ . τ . λ .: so that contrariwise ye should rather forgive him and comfort him ( cf. , for the sentiment, Sir 8:5 , Colossians 3:13 , Ephesians 4:32 ). We should expect some verb like δεῖν , but it is perhaps sufficiently suggested by ὥστε . χαρίζεσθαι is generally found in the N.T. in the sense of “to bestow a favour”; but it conveys the special meaning “to forgive” in the passages referred to above. μήπως τῇ περισσοτέρᾳ λύπῃ κ . τ . λ .: lest such an one should be swallowed up with his excessive sorrow, sc. , should be driven to despair through overmuch severity. Again (see on 2 Corinthians 2:4 above) we are not to press the comparative force of περισσοτέρᾳ .

Verse 8

2 Corinthians 2:8 . διὸ παρακαλῶ ὑμᾶς κ . τ . λ .: wherefore I beseech you (or “exhort you,” see on 2 Corinthians 1:4 ) to confirm your love toward him . Authority “to bind” and “to loose” had been committed to the Apostles (Matthew 18:18 ); St. Paul had exercised the former function (1 Corinthians 5:5 ), and he now discharges the latter. The various meanings of παρακαλεῖν have been noted above (on 2 Corinthians 1:4 ); it is interesting to observe here how the word is used in one sense in 2 Corinthians 2:7 , and in another in close sequence in 2 Corinthians 2:8 ( cf. the two senses of παραδίδωμι in 1 Corinthians 11:23 ). For ἀγάπη see on 2 Corinthians 2:4 above.

Verse 9

2 Corinthians 2:9 . εἰς τοῦτο γὰρ κ . τ . λ .: for to this end also did I write, viz., that I might know the proof of you, whether ye were obedient in all things; i.e. , his object in writing the former letter (1 Cor. ) was not only the reformation of the offender, but the testing of the Corinthians’ acceptance of his apostolic authority ( cf. 2 Corinthians 7:12 ). For the constr. εἰς τοῦτο γάρ … ἵνα … cf. Romans 14:9 . It is hard to decide between the readings εἰ , “whether,” or ᾗ , “whereby” (see crit. note); but the general sense is the same in both cases. A comparison of this verse with 2 Corinthians 7:12 has led some critics to doubt whether chaps. 2 and 7 really refer at all to the offender of 1 Corinthians 5:1 ; for the expressed object of St. Paul’s communication was to prove the loyalty of the Corinthians to himself. And thus it is supposed that the individual in view is some bitter personal opponent of St. Paul (see Tertullian, de Pudic. xiii. f.). But 2 Corinthians 2:5-9 seem quite consecutive, and we find it more natural to interpret 2 Corinthians 2:5 in reference to 1 Corinthians 5:1 ff; 1 Corinthians 7:12 seems clearly to distinguish ὁ ἀδικηθείς from St. Paul himself (see Introd. , p. 15).

Verse 10

2 Corinthians 2:10 . ᾧ δέ τι χαρίζεσθε κ . τ . λ .: but to whom ye forgive anything, I forgive also; for what I also have forgiven ( if I have forgiven anything ) for your sakes have I forgiven it in the face of Christ . This is not a general principle, but a statement of the Apostle’s feelings at the present juncture; if they are willing to forgive the offender, so is he. Whether he advocates punishment or forgiveness it is always διʼ ὑμᾶς , “for your sakes,” and it is ἐν προσώπῳ Χριστοῦ , “in the sight of Christ”. πρόσωπον (see on 2 Corinthians 1:11 ) is a “face,” and so ἐν προσ . Χρ . is a stronger way of saying ἐνώπιον Χριστοῦ ( cf. chap. 2 Corinthians 4:2 , 2 Corinthians 8:21 , Galatians 1:20 ); the Apostle claims that his acts of condemnation and forgiveness are done as “in the presence of Christ”. Both A.V. and R.V. render “in the person of Christ,” which would mean that St. Paul had acted as Christ’s delegate. But the usage of πρόσωπον in 2 Cor. is against this interpretation.

Verse 11

2 Corinthians 2:11 . ἵνα μὴ πλεονεκτηθῶμεν κ . τ . λ .: lest we, sc. , you and I together, be robbed by Satan; i.e. , lest we drive sinners to despair and so let Satan capture them from us. “The offender was to be delivered over τῷ Σατανᾷ εἰς ὄλεθρον τῆς σαρκός (1 Corinthians 5:5 ) care must be taken lest we πλεονεκτηθῶμεν ὑπὸ τοῦ Σατανᾶ , and his soul perish likewise” (Alford). Observe that in St. Paul’s writings (except chap. 2 Corinthians 12:7 ; see reff.) Σατανᾶς takes the article, “the Satan,” the adversary; it has not yet come to be regularly used as a proper name (but cf. Matthew 4:10 , Mark 3:23 ). οὐ γὰρ αὐτοῦ κ . τ . λ .: for we are not ignorant of his devices . νόημα (see reff.) is generally (always in this Ep.) used in a bad sense, of the thoughts of man’s unregenerate heart. Here τὰ νοήματα are the designs of the adversary of souls.

Verse 12

2 Corinthians 2:12 . ἐλθὼν δέ κ . τ . λ .: but (the particle δέ marking the resumption of his original subject) when I came to Troas, for the purposes of the Gospel of Christ ( cf. 2 Corinthians 9:13 ). He stayed there seven days preaching and teaching on his return from Greece (Acts 20:6-12 ). We are not to press the article and translate “the Troad”; cf. Acts 20:5-6 , where we have ἐν Τρῳάδ , and εἰς τὴν Τρῳάδα used of the same place in consecutive verses. Troas would be a natural place of rendezvous, as it was the point of embarkation for Macedonia (see Acts 16:8 ); and here St. Paul had expected to meet Titus, who had been sent from Ephesus to Corinth, with an unnamed companion, as the bearer of 1 Cor. (see Introd. , p. 9). καὶ θὺρας μοι ἀνεῳγμένης ἐν Κυρίῳ : and a door was opened for me in the Lord . This is not the “door of faith” (Acts 14:27 ), but the door of opportunity at Troas (see reff. above), which he describes here as “opened,” a phrase which he had used a short time before of his prospects of usefulness at Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:9 ). It is open ἐν Κυρίῳ ; that is the sphere, as it were, of his apostolic labours (see reff.).

Verses 12-17


Verse 13

2 Corinthians 2:13 . οὐκ ἔσχηκα ἄνεσιν τῷ πν .: I had no relief for my spirit . So he says again (2 Corinthians 7:5 ) ἐλθόντων ἡμῶν εἰς Μακεδονίαν οὐδεμίαν ἔσχηκεν ἄνεσιν ἡ σὰρξ ἡμῶν . We are not to lay much stress on πνεῦμα being used here and σάρξ there (yet cf. chap. 2 Corinthians 7:1 ); σάρξ in the later passage is used of the whole mortal nature of man, which is subject to distress and disappointment; and πνεῦμα here is a general term for the “mind” ( cf. Romans 1:9 ; Romans 8:6 ; Rom 12:11 , 1 Corinthians 2:11 ; 1 Corinthians 5:3 ; 1 Corinthians 14:14 , chap. 2Co 7:1 ; 2 Corinthians 7:13 , etc., for St. Paul’s use of πνεῦμα for the human spirit, and see on 2 Corinthians 3:6 below). For the tense of ἔσχηκα , see on 2 Corinthians 1:9 . τῷ μὴ εὑρεῖν κ . τ . λ .: because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them ( sc. , the disciples at Troas) I went forth into Macedonia . ἐξέρχεσθαι is the word used in Acts 16:10 ; Acts 20:1 of “going out” of Asia to Macedonia; cf. 2 Corinthians 8:17 .

Verse 14

2 Corinthians 2:14 . τῷ δὲ Θεῷ χαρις κ . τ . λ .: but thanks be to God, etc. Instead of giving details of the information which Titus brought to him in Macedonia (chap. 2 Corinthians 7:6 ), he bursts out into a characteristic doxology, which leads him into a long digression, the main topic of the Epistle not coming into view again until 2 Corinthians 6:11 . τῷ πάντοτε θριαμβεύοντι : who always, sc. , even in times of anxiety and distress, leadeth us in triumph in Christ . θριαμβεύειν , “to lead as captive in a triumphal procession,” occurs again in this sense Colossians 2:15 . The rendering of the A.V., “which causeth us to triumph,” though yielding a good sense here (and despite the causative force of verbs in - εύω ), must be abandoned, as no clear instance of θριαμβεύειν in such a signification has been produced. The splendid image before the writer’s mind is that of a Roman triumph, which, though he had never seen it, must have been familiar to him as it was to every citizen of the Empire. He thinks of God as the Victor (Revelation 6:2 ) entering the City into which the glory and honour of the nations (Revelation 21:26 ) is brought; the Apostle as “in Christ” as a member of the Body of Christ is one of the captives, by means of whom the knowledge and fame of the Victor is made manifest. He rejoices that he has been so used by God, as would appear from the tidings which Titus has brought him. καὶ τὴν ὀσμὴν τῆς γνώσεως κ . τ . λ .: and maketh manifest through us the savour of the knowledge of Him ( sc. , of Christ) in every place, sc. , at Corinth as well as in Troas and Macedonia. It is possible that the metaphor of the ὀσμή is suggested by and is part of that of the triumph; e.g. , Plutarch ( Æmil. Paul. c. 32) says that the temples were “full of fumigations” during the passage of the procession. But ὀσμὴ εὐωδίας is a frequent LXX phrase (see reff.).

Verse 15

2 Corinthians 2:15 . ὅτι Χρ . εὐωδία κ . τ . λ .: for we are a sweet savour of Christ unto God . Not only “through us” is the ὀσμή made manifest; we ourselves in so far as we realise and manifest our membership of Christ are, in fact, that εὐωδία . The influence of the lives of the saints is sweet and penetrative, like that of incense. From this verse comes the phrase “the odour of sanctity”. ἐν τοῖς σωζομένοις καὶ κ . τ . λ .: among them that are being saved and among them that are perishing . It is difficult to understand why the American Committee of Revisers objected to this rendering, and translated “are saved … perish”. The force of the present participles ought not to be overlooked (see reff.); men in this world are either in the way of life or the way of death, but their final destiny is not to be spoken of as fixed and irrevocable while they are in the flesh. Free will involves the possibility alike of falling away from a state of grace, or of repentance from a state of sin. But for men of either class is a Christian life lived in their midst, a εὐωδία Χριστοῦ .

Verse 16

2 Corinthians 2:16 . οἷς μὲν ὀσμὴ κ . τ . λ .: to the one a savour from death unto death; to the other a savour from life unto life ; and yet it is the same ὀσμή in both cases; cf. Luke 2:34 . ἐκ θανάτου εἰς θάνατον may be illustrated by Romans 1:17 , ἐκ πίστεως εἰς πίστιν (see also chap. 2 Corinthians 3:18 ); emphasis is gained, according to the Hebrew idiom, by repeating the important word. The Rabbinical parallels given by Wetstein and others show that the metaphor of this verse was common among Jewish writers they called the Law an aroma vitae to the good, but an aroma mortis to the evil. καὶ πρὸς ταῦτα τίς ἱκανός : who then is sufficient for these things? sc. , to fill such a part as has been just described (for καὶ … τίς see on 2 Corinthians 2:2 above). St. Paul’s answer is not fully expressed, but the sequence of thought is this: “it might be thought that no one is sufficient for such a task; and yet we are, for we are not as the many,” etc.; an answer which he is careful to explain and qualify in 2 Corinthians 2:5 of the next chapter, lest he should be accused of undue confidence.

Verse 17

2 Corinthians 2:17 . οὐ γάρ ἐσμεν ὡς κ . τ . λ .: for we are not as the many, viz. , the ordinary teachers with whom you meet. The indirect reference is to his opponents at Corinth, though they are not named. At least he is more worthy to fill the high office of which he has been speaking than many who would be only too glad to usurp his authority; cf. chap. 2Co 4:2 , 1 Thessalonians 2:3 ; 1 Thessalonians 2:5 for similar comparisons. καπηλεύοντες τὸν λόγον τοῦ Θεοῦ : who adulterate the word of God, i.e. , the Divine message as revealed in the Gospel (the usual sense in the N.T. of ὁ λόγος τοῦ Θεοῦ ; cf. 2 Corinthians 4:2 and 2 Timothy 2:15 ). κάπηλος ( Sir 26:29 ) is “a huckster,” and is used in Isaiah 1:22 of one who adulterates wine; so the primary sense of καπηλεύειν is “to make merchandise of” (R.V. margin), which readily passed into “to corrupt” or “adulterate” for the purposes of trade. ἀλλʼ ὡς ἐξ εἰλικρινείας f1κ . τ . λ .: but as of sincerity (our subjective attitude of mind), but as of God (the objective source of our message and of our commission to speak), in the sight of God ( sc. , in the consciousness of His presence; cf. 2 Corinthians 2:10 above), speak we in Christ, sc. , as members of Christ’s Body, in fellowship with Him. This solemn and impressive confirmation of what has been said is repeated, chap. 2 Corinthians 12:19 , κατέναντι Θεοῦ ἐν Χριστῷ λαλοῦμεν .

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