Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 8

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Verse 1

2 Corinthians 8:1 . Γνωρίζομεν f1δὲ ὑμῖν κ . τ . λ .: moreover (for this is the force of the δὲ μεταβατικόν , marking the transition to a new subject; cf. 1 Corinthians 7:1 ; 1 Corinthians 8:1 ; 1 Corinthians 15:1 , chap. 2 Corinthians 10:1 , etc.), brethren, we make known to you the grace of God, sc. , the special grace of liberality in giving, which has been given in, i.e. , given to and exhibited in (see on 2 Corinthians 1:22 ), the Churches of Macedonia, e.g. , Philippi, Thessalonica and Berœa (Acts 16:17 ), which places we may presume he revisited on this journey.

Verses 1-7


Verse 2

2 Corinthians 8:2 . ὅτι ἐν πολλῇ δοκιμῇ κ . τ . λ .: how that in much proof of affliction, i.e. , in spite of the severe afflictions by which they were tried, probably a reference to persecution and annoyance from their heathen neighbours (see Acts 16:20 , Philippians 1:28 , 1Th 1:6 ; 1 Thessalonians 2:14 ; 1 Thessalonians 3:3-9 ), the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty ( κατὰ βάθους = “reaching deep down”; cf. the phrase in Strabo, ix., 419, ἄντρον κοῖλον κατὰ βάθους ) abounded unto the riches of their liberality . ἁπλοῦς means primarily “simple,” “single-minded” (Matthew 6:22 ), and ἁπλότης is thus used by St. Paul in chap. 2 Corinthians 11:3 , Ephesians 6:5 , Colossians 3:22 ; but single-mindedness or “heartiness” of giving (see 1 Chronicles 29:17 ) involves “liberality” in giving ( cf. 2 Corinthians 9:7 ), and thus in many passages (see reff. and cf. James 1:5 ) liberality is the best rendering. The whole of Greece, except the Roman colonies of Patrae and Corinth, was in a dire condition of poverty and distress at this period (see Arnold’s Roman Commonwealth , ii., 382, quoted by Stanley); and the contribution of the Macedonian Christians was really comparable to the giving of the widow’s mite (Mark 12:44 ). It is noteworthy that no warnings against the temptations of wealth occur in 1 and 2 Thess. or Phil. See, however, Lightfoot, Bibl. Essays , p. 247.

Verse 3

2 Corinthians 8:3 . ὅτι κατὰ δύναμιν κ . τ . λ .: for according to their power, I bear witness, yea and beyond their power . Field quotes a good parallel from Josephus, Antt. , iii., 6. 1, who has κατὰ δύναμιν … παρὰ δύναμιν as here.

Verses 3-4

2 Corinthians 8:3-4 . αὐθαίρετοι μετὰ πολλ . παρακ . κ . τ . λ .: of their own accord begging of us with much entreaty (the constr. is clumsy but perhaps unbroken; we should expect ἔδωκαν after αὐθαίρετοι , but the verb is found in 2 Corinthians 8:5 ) the favour, sc. , of giving ( cf. , for this sense of χάρις , Acts 24:27 ; Acts 25:3 , Sir 30:6 ), and the participation in the ministering to the saints, sc. , the poor Christians in Judæa. The Macedonian Christians did not wait to be asked to give; they asked to be allowed the privilege of giving ( cf. Acts 20:35 ). διακονία is the regular word for such charitable service ( cf. Acts 6:1 ; Acts 11:29 , Romans 15:25 ; Romans 15:31 , chap. 2 Corinthians 9:1 ; 2 Corinthians 9:12 , etc.), a primary duty of the διάκονοι being the administration of alms.

Verse 5

2 Corinthians 8:5 . καὶ οὐ καθὼς κ . τ . λ .: and not (merely) as we hoped, i.e. , beyond what we expected or hoped, but first (not only in order of time, but in order of importance; as we say “first of all”) they gave themselves to the Lord . This is not merely the consecration of self ( cf. Romans 12:1 ), which is the condition of all acceptable almsgiving, for this would not have been beyond the Apostle’s expectations, but the devotion of personal service in the work of spreading the Gospel, such as was given by Sopater of Berœa, Aristarchus and Secundus of Thessalonica (Acts 20:4 ), and Epaphroditus of Philippi (Philippians 2:25 ). Other Macedonian Christians who are named as helpers of St. Paul are Jason (Acts 17:5 f.) and Gaius Acts 19:29 ); possibly Demas also (Philemon 1:24 , 2 Timothy 4:10 ) was of Thessalonica, and it has been argued that St. Luke was of Philippi (see Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller , p. 202). καὶ ἡμῖν διὰ θελ . Θεοῦ : and to us (some of them were St. Paul’s companions in travel) by the will of God . Everywhere in St. Paul’s writings the impulse to faithful service is traced up to God’s grace.

Verses 6-7

2 Corinthians 8:6-7 . εἰς τὸ παρακαλέσαι κ . τ . λ .: so that we exhorted Titus (the epistolary aor. infin.; this is the exhortation to Titus on his meeting with St. Paul in Macedonia after accomplishing his first Mission to Corinth; παρακαλ . is the word used throughout of the Apostle’s directions to Titus; see 2 Corinthians 8:17 , 2 Corinthians 9:5 , 2 Corinthians 12:17 , and on chap. 2 Corinthians 1:4 ), that as he made a beginning before, sc. , in the matter of the collection, during the Mission from which he has now returned, so he would also complete in you this grace also, i.e. , the grace of liberal giving in addition to the graces of repentance and goodwill which rejoiced him so much to observe (2 Corinthians 7:13-14 ). ἐπιτελεῖν is to bring to a successful issue a work already begun; see 2 Corinthians 5:11 below. ἀλλʼ ὥσπερ κ . τ . λ .: yea rather ( ὥσπερ having an ascensive force as at 2 Corinthians 1:9 , 2 Corinthians 5:7 being strictly parallel to and explanatory of 2 Corinthians 5:6 ) that as ye abound ( cf. 1 Corinthians 15:58 ) in everything (so he had said of the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 1:5 , ἐν παντὶ ἐπλουτίσθητε ), in faith (see chap. 2 Corinthians 1:24 and 1 Corinthians 12:8 , where πίστις is named as one of the gifts of the Spirit exhibited among them), and utterance, i.e. , the grace of ready exposition of the Gospel message, and knowledge, i.e. , of Divine things ( λόγος and γνῶσις are conjoined, as here, at 1 Corinthians 1:5 , and γνῶσις is also mentioned with πίστις at 1 Corinthians 12:8 ; at 1 Corinthians 8:1 he points out with marked emphasis that γνῶσις is not comparable in importance to ἀγάπη as shown in condescension to a brother’s intellectual weakness), and all earnestness (see reff. and cf. 2 Corinthians 7:11 , where he mentions the σπουδή that the Corinthians had exhibited when they received his message of reproof), and in your love to us ( cf. 2 Corinthians 1:11 and 2 Corinthians 8:24 ; the variant reading ἐξ ἡμῶν ἐν ὑμῖν would disturb the sense all through he is speaking of the graces of the Corinthians, not of his own), so ye may abound in this grace also ( cf. 2 Corinthians 9:8 ). The English versions and comm. take ἵνα with the subj. here as a periphrasis for the imperative, and understand some verb like βλέπετε , “ See that ye abound, etc.,” but this usage of ἵνα is unexampled. We follow Kennedy in taking 2 Corinthians 8:7 in close connexion with 2 Corinthians 8:6 , although we do not agree with the inferences which he draws (2 and 3 Cor. , p. 122). 2 Corinthians 8:7 seems “to have been added by St. Paul,” he rightly observes “to avoid any appearance of depreciating the work which Titus had already accomplished among the Corinthian Christians, by the description of it in 2 Corinthians 8:6 as a beginning”. Cf. the shrewd remark of Grotius, “non ignoravit Paulus artem rhetorum, movere laudando”.

Verse 8

2 Corinthians 8:8 . οὐ κατʼ ἐπιταγὴν λέγω κ . τ . λ .: I speak not by way of commandment, i.e. , I do not give you an authoritative and formal command (as I might do), but as proving through the earnestness of others, sc. , the example of the Macedonian Churches (2 Corinthians 8:3 ), the genuineness also of your love (2 Corinthians 8:7 ). For the constr. τὸ γνήσιον τῆς ἀγάπης see on 2 Corinthians 4:17 .

Verses 8-15


Verse 9

2 Corinthians 8:9 . γινώσκετε γὰρ κ . τ . λ .: for ye know the grace, i.e. , the act of grace, of our Lord Jesus Christ, that being rich, sc. , in His pre-existent state before the Incarnation, yet for your sakes ( cf. Romans 15:3 ) He became poor, sc. , in that κένωσις which the Incarnation involved (Philippians 2:5-6 ), (the aor. marks a def. point of time, “He became poor,” not “He was poor”), in order that ye by His poverty, i.e. , His assumption of man’s nature, might be rich, i.e. , in the manifold graces of the Incarnation ( cf. 1 Corinthians 1:5 ). This verse is parenthetical, introduced to give the highest example of love and self-sacrifice for others; there is nowhere in St. Paul a more definite statement of his belief in the pre-existence of Christ before His Incarnation ( cf. John 17:5 ). It has been thought that ἐπτώχευσε carries an allusion to the poverty of the Lord’s earthly life (Matthew 8:20 ); but the primary reference cannot be to this, for the πτωχεία of Jesus Christ by which we are “made rich” is not the mere hardship and penury of His outward lot, but the state which He assumed in becoming man.

Verse 10

2 Corinthians 8:10 . καὶ γνώμην κ . τ . λ .: and herein I give my opinion, for this ( i.e. , that he should offer them an opinion rather than give a command in this matter, cf. 2 Corinthians 9:2 ) is better, i.e. , is morally profitable, for you, inasmuch as you (see Romans 1:25 ; Romans 1:32 , etc., for οἵτινες = quippe qui ) were the first to make a beginning last year, sc. , they began to make the collection before the Macedonian Churches did ( cf. 1 Corinthians 16:1 , chap. 2 Corinthians 9:2 ), not only to do but also to will, sc. , they were beforehand not only in act, but in intention. ἀπὸ πέρυσι is for ἐκ f1πέρυσι or πρὸ πέρυσι of classical Greek; Deissmann ( Neue Bibelstudien , p. 49) notes its occurrence in a papyrus of the second cent. B.C., of which the words run: ὅτι εἰσὶν ἐν τῷ κεραμεῖ ἀπὸ πέρυσι ιβ κ . τ . λ ., i.e. , “that twelve drachmae are in the pot from last year ”. This parallel is important, as showing that ἀπὸ πέρυσι does not necessarily mean “a year ago”. It must be borne in mind that St. Paul is writing from Macedonia and probably in the month of November. Now the Macedonian year, like the Jewish, began with October, so that the phrase would be strictly justifiable, according to the chronological scheme adopted in the Introd. (p. 13).

Verse 11

2 Corinthians 8:11 . νυνὶ δὲ κ . τ . λ .: but now complete the doing also, that as there was the readiness to will, so there may be also the completion in accordance with your ability : ἐκ τοῦ ἐχεῖν = καθὸ ἄν ἔχῃ of 2 Corinthians 8:12 = pro facultatibus ( cf. John 3:34 , ἐκ μέτρου ), and not, as A.V., “out of that which ye have”.

Verse 12

2 Corinthians 8:12 . εἰ γὰρ ἡ προθυμία κ . τ . λ .: for if the readiness is there it is acceptable according as a man has, not according as he has not: cf. 2 Corinthians 9:7 , Mark 12:43 , and Tob 4:8 , “As thy substance is, give alms of it according to thine abundance; if thou have little, be not afraid to give alms according to that little”.

Verses 13-14

2 Corinthians 8:13-14 . οὐ γὰρ ἵνα κ . τ . λ .: for the collection is not made in order that there may be relief to others, i.e. , to the Judæan Christians, and pressure to you, but by equality, your abundance at the present season being a supply for their want, that their abundance also may prove to be a supply for your want, sc. , at some future time, that there may be equality, i.e. , reciprocity. There is no thought here of Jerusalem giving spiritual benefits in return for the material benefits given by Corinth ( cf. chap. 2 Corinthians 9:14 and Romans 15:27 ); what is meant is that if it ever came to the turn of Corinth to be poor, then it would be for Jerusalem to contribute for her support: Such an idea as that of the transference of the merits of the saints is, of course, quite foreign to the context.

Verse 15

2 Corinthians 8:15 . καθὼς γέγραπται κ . τ . λ .: as it is written, sc. , in the words of Scripture, “ He that gathered (we must understand σύλλεξας from Exodus 16:17 ) much had nothing over; and he that gathered little had no lack ,” sc. , because each gathered enough manna for his own needs and no more. That each Christian Church may have enough for its necessities , not its luxuries , is what St. Paul contemplates as desirable and possible by mutual generosity in giving. The true text (ABF) of the LXX in Exodus 16:18 has τὸ ἔλαττον for τὸ ὀλίγον , which however is found as an early correction in A [65] , and also in Philo.

[65]A Codex Alexandrinus (sæc. v.), at the British Museum, published in photographic facsimile by Sir E. M. Thompson (1879).

Verse 16

2 Corinthians 8:16 . χάρις δὲ τῷ Θεῷ κ . τ . λ .: but thanks be to God, who gives (note the pres. tense) to (lit., “in”; see on 2 Corinthians 1:22 for constr.) the heart of Titus the same earnest care for you, sc. , the same that I myself feel.

Verses 16-24


Verse 17

2 Corinthians 8:17 . ὅτι τὴν μὲν παράκλ . κ . τ . λ .: for not only did he accept (the epistolary aorist) our exhortation, sc. , of 2 Corinthians 8:6 , but (and this is the proof of his σπουδή ) being himself very earnest (we are not to press the comparative σπουδαιότερος ; cf. Acts 17:22 ), it was of his own accord that he went forth (epist. aor.) unto you, sc. , from Macedonia, bearing this letter. ὑπάρχων is used (as at Romans 4:19 , 1 Corinthians 11:7 , chap. 2 Corinthians 12:16 , Galatians 1:14 , Philippians 2:6 ) instead of ὤν , as expressing not merely the fact that Titus was σπουδαιότερος , but that this was his habitual condition; “being, as he is,” would convey the sense.

Verse 18

2 Corinthians 8:18 . συνεπέμψαμεν δὲ κ . τ . λ .: and we have sent (the epistolary aorist; cf. Acts 23:30 , chap. 2 Corinthians 9:3 , Philippians 2:28 , Philemon 1:12 ) together with him the brother, sc. , the brother whom you know ( cf. chap. 2 Corinthians 12:18 ), whose praise in the Gospel, i.e. , whose good repute as a labourer in the cause of the Gospel ( cf. chap. 2 Corinthians 10:14 , Philippians 4:3 , Romans 1:9 ), is throughout all the Churches, i.e. , is spread abroad in all the Churches through which I have passed ( cf. 1 Corinthians 7:17 ; 1 Corinthians 14:33 ; see 2 Corinthians 11:28 ). The Patristic reference (Origen, Jerome, etc.) of these words to St. Luke is stereotyped in the Collect for St. Luke’s Day, but there is hardly room for doubt that this is due to a mistaken interpretation of εὐαγγέλιον as signifying a written Gospel, rather than the “good news” of God delivered orally by the first Christian preachers. We have no positive data by which to determine which of St. Paul’s contemporaries is here alluded to. It has been argued that as this unnamed “brother” is seemingly subordinate to Titus, he must not be identified with persons so important as ( e.g. ) Apollos or Silas; and, again, that, as he was apparently not a Macedonian (2 Corinthians 9:4 ), he cannot be any of the prominent members of the Macedonian Church (see on 2 Corinthians 8:5 above). Trophimus the Ephesian is not impossible (see Acts 20:4 ; Acts 21:29 ), but it is idle to speculate where the evidence is so scanty. The important point about this unnamed brother is that he was selected not by St. Paul, but by the Churches who took part in the work of collecting money as their representative as is now explained.

Verse 19

2 Corinthians 8:19 . οὐ μόνον δὲ ἀλλὰ κ . τ . λ .: and not only so, but who was also appointed ( χειροτονεῖν is, strictly, to vote by a show of hands, and hence it came to mean “to elect”) by the Churches, i.e. , all the local congregations interested, as our fellow traveller in the matter of this grace (reading ἐν ; see crit. note), sc. , this contribution of money (see 2 Corinthians 8:6-7 , 1 Corinthians 16:3 ), which is being ministered by us to exhibit the glory of the Lord ( cf. 2 Corinthians 4:15 ), and our readiness . The MS. evidence requires us to read ἡμῶν , but it must be confessed that ἡμῶν is rather what we should expect, especially as προθυμία in 2 Corinthians 8:11 and in 2 Corinthians 9:2 is applied to the Corinthians and not to St. Paul; a plausible conjecture would be κατὰ προθυμίαν ἡμῶν for καὶ προθ . ἡμ ., but the words give an intelligible sense as they stand (see Galatians 2:10 ).

Verse 20

2 Corinthians 8:20 . στελλόμενοι τοῦτο κ . τ . λ .: avoiding this ( στελλέσθαι might mean “to prepare” as at Wis 14:1 , 2Ma 5:1 , but Malachi 2:5 and reff. make us decide for the Vulgate rendering devitantes ; the metaphor is a naval one, of shifting sail so as to avoid an enemy’s pursuit), that any man should blame us in the matter of this bounty (see 2 Corinthians 12:18 ; ἁδρός = full, ripe, rich, as at 1 Kings 1:9 , Job 34:19 , Isaiah 34:7 , Jeremiah 5:5 , and so ἀδρότης stands for a considerable and liberal a “fat” contribution) which is being administered by us . For the broken constr. στελλόμενοι κ . τ . λ . cf. 2Co 5:12 , 2 Corinthians 7:5 .

Verse 21

2 Corinthians 8:21 . προνοοῦμεν γὰρ κ . τ . λ .: for “we provide things honest” not only “in the sight of the Lord,” but also “in the sight of men,” an injunction in the Proverbs which the Apostle quotes again at Romans 12:17 . Where other people’s money is in question, one cannot be too careful; and the prudence of the method pursued in this collection, whereby the contributing Churches appointed colleagues to accompany St. Paul and to check his accounts, is worthy of close imitation in the ecclesiastical finance of a later age ( cf. 2 Corinthians 6:3 ).

Verse 22

2 Corinthians 8:22 . συνεπέμψαμεν δὲ αὐτοῖς κ . τ . λ .: and we have sent with them our brother, whom we have many times proved earnest in many things, but now much more earnest because of the great confidence which he has in you ( cf. Galatians 5:10 , πέποιθα εἰς ὑμᾶς ), i.e. , which was inspired by the account that Titus brought of their good conduct. It is as impossible to identify this “brother” as him of 2 Corinthians 8:18 ; like the first named he was an envoy of the contributing Churches (2 Corinthians 8:23 ), and further (what is not said of the first named) he was on terms of personal intimacy with St. Paul, as appears from this verse. The guess that he was Tychicus is a plausible one (see Acts 20:4 , Ephesians 6:21 , Colossians 4:7 , 2 Timothy 4:12 , Titus 3:12 ), but it is only a guess and is incapable of verification. A few cursives (see on 2 Corinthians 13:13 ) give the name of Barnabas with those of Titus and Luke in the subscription at the end of the Epistle, and this may represent an early tradition.

Verse 23

2 Corinthians 8:23 . εἴτε ὑπὲρ Τίτου κ . τ . λ .: whether you ask about Titus ( cf. on 2 Corinthians 1:8 for this use of ὑπέρ ), he is my colleague and my fellow worker to you ward (for him St. Paul will be personally responsible), or our brethren , they are the envoys of Churches, i.e. , they were duly χειροτονηθέντες (2 Corinthians 8:19 ). The term ἀπόστολος is generally used by St. Paul as a technical term; but occasionally, as here, and at Philippians 2:25 (of Epaphroditus) and (possibly) at Romans 16:7 , he uses it in its primitive etymological meaning of “envoy” or “emissary” ( cf. 1 Kings 14:6 ). These men are further described as δόξα Χριστοῦ , the glory of Christ , perhaps because their work is so specially ad majorem Dei gloriam (see 2 Corinthians 8:19 and 2 Corinthians 9:13 ).

Verse 24

2 Corinthians 8:24 . τὴν οὖν ἔνδειξιν κ . τ . λ .: shew ye therefore (if we read ἐνδεικνύμενοι the exhortation is indirect, as at Romans 12:9-21 ) unto them in the face of the Churches the demonstration of your love, sc. , to us ( cf. 2 Corinthians 8:7 ), and of our glorying on your behalf, sc. , my boasting of your readiness to give ( cf. 2 Corinthians 7:4 ; 2 Corinthians 7:14 , and 2 Corinthians 9:2-3 ).

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 8". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.