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Bible Commentaries

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

2 Corinthians 12

Verse 1

1.] (I have in recent editions suspended the very difficult question of this reading, not finding it possible to decide whether of the two deserves a place in the text. Meantime, the rec. is left in, and on it the following note is written.) Let only the two readings καυχᾶσθαι δὴ οὐ συμφέρει μοι, ἐλεύσομαι γάρ, and καυχᾶσθαι δεῖ, οὐ συμφέρον μέν· ἐλεύσομαι δέ, be compared, and it would certainly seem as if the former more resembled the nervous elliptic irony of the great Apostle, and the latter the tame conventional propriety of the grammatical correctors. The other variations, δέ for δή, and the prefixing of εἰ, are too palpable emendations to require critical treatment. The difficulty however is considerably lessened, when the right connexion is borne in mind. To boast, verily, is not to my advantage: for (i.e. it will be shewn to be so, by the following fact of a correction administered to me ἵνα μὴ ὑπεραίρωμαι) (on the other reading, I must boast, though it is not to my advantage: but) I will proceed to visions and revelations of the Lord. δή in this sense implies a consciousness of a reason why the assertion is true, and is therefore naturally followed by γάρ, if the sentence is completed. The same sense is found in Plato, Phæd. p. 60, ὦ σώκρατες, ὕστατον δὴ σὲ προσεροῦσι νῦν οἱ ἐπιτήδειοι, καὶ σὺ τούτους,—the completion of the sense being,—‘for you are to die to-night:’— πολλοὶ κακῶς πράσσουσιν, οὐ σὺ δὴ μόνος, Eur. Hec. 464: i.e. οὐ σὺ δὴ μόνος κακῶς πράσσεις, πολλοὶ γὰρ ἄλλοι … (See Hartung, Partikellehre i. 270, who however explains δή in these examples somewhat differently.) The force of it here then, is: “I am well aware that to boast is not good for me: for I will come to an instance in which it was so shewn to me.”

εἰς ὀπτ. κ. ἀπ. κυρ.] q. d. ‘and the instances I will select are just of that kind in which, if boasting ever were good, it might be allowed:’ thus the γάρ gives a more complete proof. ὀπτασία is the form or manner of receiving ἀποκάλυψις, the revelation. There can hardly be an ὀπτασία without an ἀποκάλυψις of some kind. Therefore Theophylact’s distinction is scarcely correct, ἡ ἀποκάλυψις πλέον τι ἔχει τῆς ὀπτασίας· ἡ μὲν γὰρ μόνον βλέπειν δίδωσιν· αὕτη δὲ καί τι βαθύτερον τοῦ ὁρωμένου ἀπογυμνοῖ.

κυρίου, gen. subj., vouchsafed me by the Lord,—not obj., ‘of [i.e. revealing] the Lord’ [as the subject of the vision], for such is not that which follows.

No particular polemical reason, as the practice of particular parties at Corinth to allege visions, &c. (Baur), need be sought for the narration of this vision: Paul’s object is general, and the means taken to attain it are simply subordinate to it, viz. the vindication of his apostolic character.

Verses 1-10

1–10.] He proceeds to speak of visions and revelations vouchsafed to him, and relates one such, of which however he will not boast, except in as far as it leads to fresh mention of infirmity, in which he will boast, as being a vehicle for the perfection of Christ’s power. In order to understand the connexion of the following, it is very requisite to bear in mind the burden of the whole, which runs through it— ἐν ταῖς ἀσθενείαις καυχήσομαι. There is no break between this and the last chapter. He has just mentioned a passage of his history which might expose him to contempt and ridicule—this was one of the ἀσθένειαι. He now comes to another: but that other inseparably connected with, and forming the sequel of, a glorious revelation vouchsafed him by the Lord. This therefore he relates, at the same time repudiating it as connected with himself, and fixing attention only on the ἀσθένεια which followed it.

Verse 2

2.] I know (not, ‘knew,’ as E. V.: which [is a mistake in grammar, and] introduces serious confusion, making it seem as if the πρὸ ἐτῶν δεκατ. were the date of the knowledge, not, as it really is, of the vision) a man in Christ ( ἐν χρ. belongs to ἄνθρ., not to οἶδα as Beza; ἄνθ. ἐν χρ. = ‘a Christian,’ ‘a man whose standing is in Christ:’ so οἳ καὶ πρὸ ἐμοῦ γέγοναν ἐν χριστῷ, Romans 16:7),—fourteen years ago (belongs not to οἶδα, nor to ἐν χρ. as Grot.: ‘hominem talem, qui per 14 annos Christo serviat;’—but to ἁρπαγέντα. On the idiom see reff.,—the date probably refers back to the time when he was at Tarsus waiting for God to point out his work, between Acts 9:30; Acts 11:25. See the chronological table in the Prolegomena), whether in the body, I know not, or out of the body, I know not: God knoweth (if in the body, the idea would be that he was taken up bodily: if out of the body, to which the alternative manifestly inclines,—that his spirit was rapt from the body, and taken up disembodied. Aug(19) de genesi ad litteram xii. 2–5 (3–14), vol. iii. pp. 455 ff., discusses the matter at length, and concludes thus,—‘Proinde quod vidit raptus usque in tertium cœlum, quod etiam se scire confirmat, proprie vidit, non imaginaliter. Sed quia ipsa a corpore alienata utrum omnino mortuum corpus reliquerit, an secundum modum quendam viventis corporis ibi anima fuerit, sed mens ejus ad videnda vel audienda ineffabilia illius visionis arrepta sit, hoc incertum erat,—ideo forsitan dixit, “sive in corpore sive extra corpus, nescio, Deus scit.” ’, And similarly Thom. Aq. and Estius: not, as Meyer thinks, making the alternative consist between reality and a mere vision, but between the anima, the life, being rapt out of the body, leaving it dead, and the mens, the intelligence or spirit, being rapt out of the body, leaving it ‘secundum modum quendam vivens’); such an one (so τὸν τοιοῦτον resumes after a parenthesis, 1 Corinthians 5:5), rapt (snatched or taken up, reff.) as far as the third heaven.

What is the third heaven? The Jews knew no such number, but commonly (not universally: Rabbi Judah said, “Duo sunt cœli, Deuteronomy 10:14”) recognized seven heavens: and if their arrangement is to be followed, the third heaven will be very low in the celestial scale, being only the material clouds. That the threefold division into the air (nubi-ferum), the sky (astriferum), and the heaven (angeliferum), was in use among the Jews, Meyer regards as a fiction of Grotius. Certainly no Rabbinical authority is given for such a statement: but it is put forward confidently by Grotius, and since his time adopted without enquiry by many Commentators. It is uncertain whether the sevenfold division prevailed so early as the Apostle’s time: and at all events, as we must not invent Jewish divisions which never existed, so it seems rash to apply here, one about whose date we are not certain, and which does not suit the context:—for to be rapt only to the clouds, even supposing 2 Corinthians 12:4 to relate a further assumption, would hardly be thus solemnly introduced, or the preposition ἕως used. The safest explanation therefore is, not to follow any fixed division, but judging by the evident intention of the expression, to understand a high degree of celestial exaltation. I cannot see any cogency in Meyer’s argument, that ‘the third heaven must have been an idea well known and previously defined among his readers,’ seeing that in such words as τρὶς μακάριος, &c. it is manifestly inapplicable.

Verses 2-4

2–4.] An example of such a vision and revelation. The adoption of the third person is remarkable: it being evident from 2 Corinthians 12:7 that he himself is meant. It is plain that a contrast is intended between the rapt and glorified person of 2 Corinthians 12:2; 2 Corinthians 12:4,—and himself, the weak and afflicted and almost despairing subject of the σκόλοψ τῇ σαρκί of 2 Corinthians 12:7 ff. Such glory belonged not to him, but the weakness did. Nay, so far was the glory from being his, that he knew not whether he was in or out of the body when it was put upon him: so that the ἐγὼ αὐτός, compounded of the νοῦς and σάρξ (Romans 7:25), clearly was not the subject of it, but as it were another form of his personality, analogous to that which we shall assume when unclothed of the body.

It may be remarked in passing, as has been done by Whitby, that the Apostle here by implication acknowledges the possibility of consciousness and receptivity in a disembodied state.

Let it not be forgotten, that in the context, this vision is introduced not so much for the purpose of making it a ground of boasting, which he does only passingly and under protest, but that he may by it introduce the mention of the σκόλοψ τῇ σαρκί, which bore so conspicuous a part in his ἀσθένειαι, TO BOAST OF WHICH is his present object.

Verses 3-4

3, 4.] A solemn repetition of the foregoing, with the additional particular of his having had unspeakable revelations made to him. Some, as Clem(20) Strom. 2 Corinthians 12:12 (80), p. 693 P., Iren(21) ii. 30.7, p. 162, Athan. Apol. 20, vol. i. p. 263, Orig(22) (or his interpreter) on Rom. xvi. lib. x. 43, vol. iv. p. 688, Œcum., al., think that this was a fresh assumption, ἕως τρίτου οὐρανοῦ κἀκεῖθεν εἰς τὸν παράδεισον, and with these Meyer agrees: but surely had this been intended, some intimation would have been given of it, either by καί, or by placing εἰς τὸν παράδεισον (as the stress would be then no longer on the fact ἁρπαγῆναι as before, but on the new place to which ἡρπάγη) in the place of emphasis before ἡρπάγη;—or, by both combined,— ὅτι καὶ εἰς τὸν παράδεισον ἡρπάγη. As it is, with the verb preceding in both clauses, and therefore no prominence given to the places as distinguished from one another, I must hold ἕως τρίτου οὐρ. to be at least so far equivalent to εἰς τὸν παράδεισον, as to be a general local description of the situation in which ὁ παράδεισος is found. The repetition of εἴτεοἶδεν is equally accountable on either explanation, being made for solemnity and emphasis.

The παράδεισος cannot here be the Jewish Paradise, the blissful division or side of Hades (Scheol), where the spirits of the just awaited the resurrection, see note on Luke 16:22,—but the Paradise of which our Lord spoke on the Cross,—the place of happiness into which He at His Death introduced the spirits of the just: see on ref. Luke.

ἄῤῥητα ῥήματα, i.e. as explained below, words which it is not lawful to utter:—as Vulg., “arcana verba, quæ non licet homini loqui.” The interpretation, “quæ dici nequeunt,” as Beza, Estius, Calov., Olsh., al., is hardly consistent with the narrative; for in that case, as Bengel remarks, ‘Paulus non potuisset audire.’ The passages adduced by Wetst. mostly refer to the mysteries, or some secret rites: e.g. Demosth. contra Neæram, p.1369, αὕτη ἡ γυνὴ ὑμῖν ἔθυε τὰ ἄῤῥητα ἱερὰ ὑπὲρ τῆς πόλεως, καὶ εἶδεν, ἃ οὐ προσῆκεν αὐτὴν ὁρᾷν ξένην οὖσαν.

ἃ οὐκ ἐξόν] which it is not lawful for a MAN to utter (see above):—imparted by God, but not to be divulged to others: and therefore, in this case, intended, we may presume, for the Apostle’s own consolation and encouragement. Of what kind they were, on by whom uttered, we have no hint given, and it were worse than trifling to conjecture. “Sublimitatis certe magnæ fuere: nam non omnia cœlestia sunt ineffabilia, v. gr. Exodus 34:6, Isaiah 6:3, quæ tamen valde sublimia.” Bengel.

Verse 5

5.] Of such a man he will boast, but not (see above on 2 Corinthians 12:1) of himself, except it be in his infirmities.

τοῦ τοιούτου must be masc. as before, not neuter, as Luth., al., take it. This is shewn by ὑπέρ, used of the person respecting whom (reff.), whereas ἐν is said of the thing on account of which, a man boasts.

He strikes here again the keynote of the whole—boasting in his infirmities. He will boast of such a person, so favoured, so exalted; but this merely by the way: it is not his subject: it was introduced, not indeed without reference to the main point, but principally to bring in the infirmity following.

Verse 6

6.] For (supply the sentence for which γάρ renders a reason: ‘Not but that I might boast concerning myself if I would’)—if I shall wish to boast ὑπὲρ ἐμαυτοῦ), I shall not be a fool (I shall not act rashly or imprudently, for I shall not boast without solid ground for it): for I shall speak the truth:—but I abstain (reff.), that no one may reckon of me (reff. and add εἰς μαλακίαν σκώπτων, Demosth. 308. 18) beyond (by a standard superior to that furnished by) what he sees me (to be), or hears (if τι form part of the text, or hears any thing: a pleonastic construction = ἢ εἴ τι ἀκούει) from me. Lest he should seem to undervalue so legitimate a subject of boasting, he alleges the reason why he abstains: not that he had not this and more such exaltations, truly to allege: but because he wished to be judged of by what they really had seen and heard of and from himself in person.

Verse 7

7.] And that I might not, by the abundant excess of revelations (made to me), be uplifted (the order of the words is chosen to bring τῇ ὑπερβ. κ. τ. λ. into the place of foremost emphasis: see reff. The διό can hardly stand with the present punctuation. If it forms part of the text, it must begin the sentence, and we must with Lachmann join καὶ τῇ ὑπερβ. τῶν ἀποκ. to the foregoing, as in apposition with ἀσθενείαις. But thus a very strange sense would be given), there was given me (‘by God:’ certainly not, as Meyer, al., by Satan, of whom such an expression as ἐδόθη would surely hardly be used: cf. ἡ χάρις ἡ δοθεῖσά μοι, so often said by the Apostle,—Romans 12:3; Romans 12:6; Romans 15:15 al., and the absolute use of ἐδόθη for bestowed, portioned out by God, 1 Corinthians 11:15; 1 Corinthians 12:7-8; Galatians 3:21; James 1:5) a thorn (the word may signify a stake, or sharp pointed staff, ξύλον ὀξύ, Hesych(23),—so in Hom. Il. σ. 176, κεφαλὴνπῆξαι ἀνὰ σκολόπεσσι; but in the LXX, reff., it is ‘a thorn,’ and such is the more likely meaning here. Meyer cites from Artemid. iii. 33, ἄκανθαι καὶ σκόλοπες ὀδύνας σημαίνουσι διὰ τὸ ὀξύ (compare ref. Ezek., σκόλοψ πικρίας καὶ ἄκανθα ὀδύνης). See however Stanley’s note, who rejects the meaning ‘thorn,’ and supposes the figure to refer to the punishment of impalement) in my flesh (the expression used Galatians 4:14 of this same affliction, τὸν πειρασμὸν ὑμῶν ἐν τῇ σαρκί μου, seems decisive for rendering the dative thus, and not as a dativus incommodi: see also ref. 1 Cor.), the (or an) angel of Satan (even if we read σατᾶν, it can only be the genitive. If taken as the nom., the expression would mean either, a hostile angel, which would be contrary to the universal usage of Satan, as a proper name: or, the angel Satan, which is equally inconsistent with N. T. usage, according to which Satan, though once an angel, is now ἄρχων τῆς ἐξουσίας τοῦ ἀέρος, Ephesians 2:2, and has his own angels, Matthew 25:41), that he (the angel of Satan,—not the σκόλοψ, which would be an unnecessary confusion of metaphors. ‘The continuation of a discourse often belongs to the word in apposition, not to the main subject,’ Meyer) may buffet me ( κολαφίζῃ is best thus expressed, in the present. The aorist would denote merely one such act of insult. Thus Chrys.: … ὥστεδιηνεκοῦς δεῖσθαι τοῦ χαλινοῦ· οὐ γὰρ εἶπεν, ἵνα κολαφίσῃ, ἀλλʼ ἵνα κολαφίζῃ,—Theophyl., οὐχ ἵνα ἅπαξ με κολαφίσῃ, ἀλλʼ ἀεί,—and similarly (Ecum.), that I may not be uplifted (the repetition gives force and solemnity,—expressing his firm persuasion of the divine intention in thus afflicting him).

As regards the thorn itself, very many, and some very absurd conjectures have been hazarded. They may be resolved into three heads, the two former of which are, from the nature of the case, out of the question (see below): (1) that Paul alludes to spiritual solicitations of the devil (‘injectiones Satanæ’), who suggested to him blasphemous thoughts,—so Gerson, Luther (how characteristically!), Calov.,—or remorse for his former life, so Osiander, Mosheim, &c.: or according to the Romanist interpreters, who want to find here a precedent for their monkish stories of temptations,—incitements to lust,—so Thom. Aq., Lyra, Bellarmin, Estius, Corn.-a-Lapide, al. (2) that he alludes to opposition from his adversaries, or some one adversary κατʼ ἐξοχήν; so many ancient Commentators, Chrys., Theophyl., Œcum., Theodoret,—Calvin, Beza, al., and more recently, Fritzsche, and Schrader. (3) that he points to some grievous bodily pain, which has been curiously specified by different Commentators. The ancients (Chrys., Theophyl., Œcum., Jerome on Galatians 4:14 (lib. ii. vol. vii. p. 460)) mention κεφαλαλγία: some have supposed hypochondriac melancholy, which however hardly answers the conditions of a σκόλοψ, in which acute pain seems to be implied; alii aliter, see Pool, Synops. ad loc.; and Stanley’s note, which is important in other respects also, and full of interest.

On the whole, putting together the figure here used, that of a thorn, occasioning pain, and the κολαφισμός, buffeting or putting to shame, it seems quite necessary to infer that the Apostle alludes to some painful and tedious bodily malady, which at the same time put him to shame before those among whom he exercised his ministry. Of such a kind may have been the disorder in his eyes, more or less indicated in several passages of his history and Epistles (see notes on Acts 13:9; Acts 23:1 f.:—and Galatians 4:14(15?); 2 Corinthians 6:11 (?)). But it may also have been something besides this, and to such an inference probability would lead us; disorders in the eyes, however sad in their consequences, not being usually of a very painful or distressing nature in themselves.

Verses 7-10

7–10.] He now comes to that for which the foregoing was mainly alleged: the infirmity in his flesh, which above others hindered his personal efficiency in the apostolic ministry.

Verse 8

8.] In respect of this (angel of Satan, not σκόλοψ, see below) I thrice ( τρίς, not indefinite as Chrys., Hom. xxvi. p. 621, τουτέστι, πολλάκις. Meyer well observes, ‘At his first and second request, no answer was given to him: on the third occasion, it came; and his faithful resignation to the Lord’s will prevented his asking again’) besought the Lord (Christ, see 2 Corinthians 12:9) that he might depart from me (the angel of Satan, see Luke 4:13 [Acts 22:29]):

Verse 9

9.] And He said to me (this perf. can hardly in English be represented otherwise than by the historical aorist; in the Greek, it partakes of its own proper sense—‘He said, and that answer is enough:’ ‘He hath said,’—but this last would not contain reference enough to the fact itself. The poverty of our language in the finer distinctions of the tenses often obliges us to render inaccurately, and fall short of, the wonderful language with which we have to deal.

How this was said, whether accompanied by an appearance of Christ to him or not, must remain in obscurity), My grace (not,—‘My favour generally;’—‘My imparted grace’) is sufficient for thee ( ἀρκεῖ, spoken from the divine omniscience,‘suffices, and shall suffice:’ q. d. ‘the trial must endure, untaken away: but the grace shall also endure, and never fail thee’), for (the reason lying in My ways being not as man’s ways, My Power not being brought to perfection as man’s power is conceived to be) (My) Power is made perfect (has its full energy and complete manifestation) in (as the element in which it acts as observable by man) weakness. See ch. 2 Corinthians 4:7, and 1 Corinthians 2:3-4,—where the influence of this divine response on the Apostle, is very manifest. If I mistake not, the expression τῆς δυνάμεως, there, favours the omission of μου here, as in our text, and makes it probable that it was inserted for perspicuity’s sake, and to answer to ἡ δύν. τοῦ χρ. below.

Most gladly therefore will I rather (than that my affliction should be removed from me, which before that response, I wished) boast ( καυχ. is in the emphatic place,—I will rather boast in mine infirmities. Had μᾶλλον signified ‘rather than in revelations,’ or ‘rather than in any thing else,’ it would have been μᾶλλον ἐν ταῖς ἀσθενείαις μου καυχήσομαι) in my infirmities, that (by my ἀσθένειαι being not removed from me, but becoming my glory) the Power of Christ may have its residence in me (see ref. Polyb.—‘may carry on in me its work unto completion,’ as above).

Verse 10

10.] Wherefore (because of this relation to human weakness and divine power) I am well content [cf. the same expression Matthew 3:17] in infirmities (four kinds of which are then specified,—all coming also, as well as ἀσθ. proper, under the category of ἀσθένειαι, as hindrances and bafflings of human strength),—in insults, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses,—on behalf of Christ: for whenever I am weak (applying to all five situations above), then I am mighty. Wetst. quotes from Philo, Vita Mosis, i. 13, vol. ii. p. 92, μὴ ἀναπίπτετε. τὸ ἀσθενὲς ὑμῶν δύναμίς ἐστι.

Verse 11

11.] I am BECOME (the emphasis on γέγονα,—I am verily become a fool, viz. by this boasting, which I have now concluded. ‘Receptui canit:’ Bengel. But it is still ironical, spoken from the situation of his adversaries) a fool: ye compelled me ( ὑμεῖς emphatic). For I ( ἐγώ also emphatic, but more with reference to what has passed: ‘ye compelled me, it was no doing of mine, for I &c.’ The meaning is not, as De W., “I, not mine adversaries,” who are an element foreign to the present sentence) ought to have been recommended by you (emphatic, by you, not by himself): for I was nothing behind (when I was with you) these overmuch Apostles (see on ch. 2 Corinthians 11:5; but here even more plainly than there, the expression cannot be applied to the other Apostles, seeing that the aor. would in that case be inconsistent with the fact—the Corinthians never having had an opportunity of comparing him with them), even though I am nothing (see similar expressions of humility, 1 Corinthians 15:9-11).

Verses 11-18

11–18.] He excuses his boasting, and is thereby led to speak of the signs of an Apostle wrought among them, and to reassert his disinterestedness in preaching to them, on occasion of his past and intended visits.

Verse 12

12.] Confirmation of the οὐδὲν ὑστέρησα.… The signs indeed (the μέν is elliptical,—see Hartung, Partikellehre, ii. 411,—corresponding to a suppressed ὅμως δὲ …; ‘in this case, the signs indeed &c., but, notwithstanding, I am not recommended by you.’ So Soph. Œd. Col. 526, ἤνεγκον κακότατʼ, ὦ ξένοι, ἤνεγκʼ, ἀέκων μέν, θεὸς ἴστω. It always throws out into strong emphasis the noun, pronoun, or verb to which it is attached, as here σημεῖα) of an Apostle ( τοῦ generic,—‘ejus qui Apostolus sit,’ Bengel) were wrought out among you (“the Apostle’s own personality as the worker is modestly veiled behind the passive.” Meyer) in all (possible) patience (endurance of opposition, which did not cause me to leave off working. ὑπομονή is not one of the σημεῖα, as Chrys., Hom. xxvii. p. 627: θέα ποῖον πρῶτον τίθησι, τὴν ὑπομονήν. τοῦτο γὰρ ἀποστόλου δεῖγμα, τὸ φέρειν πάντα γενναίως,—but the element in which the σημεῖα were wrought out), by signs and wonders ( σημ. not as above, but as constantly found with τέρασι, as an intensitive synonym) and mighty works (see ref. Heb.).

Verse 13

13. εἰ μὴ ὅτι] except that one point, in which of all others they had least reason to complain. This one is put forward to indicate their deep ingratitude, if they did complain, seeing that the only point of difference in their treatment had been a preference: ‘die ties gefránfte Liebe redet.’ Meyer.

On κατενάρκ. see ref.

χαρ. μ. τ. ἀδ. ταύτην] The irony here reaches its height.

Verses 13-15

13–15.] His disinterestedness, shewn in his past, and resolved in his future dealings with them. The question τί γὰρ κ. τ. λ. is asked in bitter irony. It is an illustration of ἐν πάσῃ ὑπομονῇ, and of the distinction conferred on them by so long manifestation of the signs of an Apostle among them. ‘Was this endurance of working which I shewed, marred by the fact that I worked gratuitously among you?ἡσς. ὑπέρ does not imply that all churches suffered loss, and that the loss of the Corinthians was only not greater than that of other churches: but the comparative, implied in. ἡσς is carried out by the ὑπέρ,—‘ye suffered loss in comparison with the other Churches.’

Verse 14

14.] τρίτον (the τοῦτο, though so strongly attested, can hardly have been omitted, had it ever been in the text, and therefore has probably been inserted from ch. 2 Corinthians 13:1) ἑτ. ἔχω ἐλθ., must, from the context, mean, I am ready to come the third time;—not, ‘I am the third time ready to come,’ i.e. ‘this is the third time that I have been ready to come to you.’ This latter meaning has been adopted by Beza, Grot., Estius, al., Paley, al., and even De Wette, hesitatingly, in order to evade the difficulty of supposing Paul to have been before this twice at Corinth. But on this see Prolegomena to 1 Cor. § v. Here, the context has absolutely nothing to do with his third preparation to come, which would be a new element, requiring some explanation, as in 1 Thessalonians 2:18. The natural, and, I am persuaded, only true inference from the words here is, ‘I am coming to you a third time,—and I will not burden you this time, any more than I did at my two previous visits.’

Our business in such cases is, not to wrest plain words to fit our preconceived chronology, but to adapt our confessedly uncertain and imperfect history of the Apostle’s life, to the data furnished by the plain honest sense of his Epistles.

οὐ γὰρ ζητῶ …] Wetst. quotes Cicero de Fin. ii. 26: ‘Me igitur ipsum ames oportet, non mea, si veri amici futuri sumus.’— μείζονα ἐπιζητῶ, ψυχὰς ἀντὶ χρημάτων, σωτηρίαν ἀντὶ χρυσίου, Chrys., p. 629.

οὐ γὰρ ὀφείλει …] Paul was the spiritual father of the Corinthian Church, 1 Corinthians 4:14-15; he does not therefore want to be enriched by them, his children, but rather to lay up riches for them, seeking to have them as his treasure, and thus to enrich them, as a loving father does his children. The θησαυρός is left indefinite: if pressed strictly, it cannot be earthly treasure in the negative part of the sentence, heavenly, in the positive;—cf. next verse.

Notice, ὀφείλει is not impersonal, but the common verb to τέκνα and γονεῖς, agreeing by proximity with the former.

Verse 15

15.] ἐγὼ δὲ τῶν φύσει πατέρων καὶ πλέον τι ποιεῖν ἐπαγγέλλομαι, Theodoret: and similarly Chrys. and Theophyl. They lay up treasures: I will spend them:— καὶ τί λέγω, χρήματα δαπανήσω; αὐτὸς ἐγώ ἐκδαπανηθήσομαι· τουτέστι, κἂν τὴν σάρκα δέῃ δαπανῆσαι ὑπὲρ τῆς σωτηρίας τῶν ψυχῶν ὑμῶν, οὐ φείσομαι, Theophyl. Cf. Hor. Od. i. 12. 38: ‘animæque magnæ prodigum Paullum.’

εἰ is less strong than εἰ καί, which has been apparently a gloss on it. It assumes the case, but does not bring out the contrast between the course of action and the state of circumstances so strongly. Here, it appears as if ἧσσον ἀγαπῶμαι were by the εἰ connected with ἐκδαπανηθήσομαι,—‘and will be spent, used up, in the service of your souls, if, the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved:’ implying, that such a return for his love was leading to, and would in time accomplish, the ἐκδαπανηθήσομαι.

Verse 16

16.] ἔστω δέ—‘but let us suppose the former matter dismissed:’ let the fact be granted, that I myself (emphatic) did not burden (= κατενάρκησα) you. Then the sense breaks off, and the force of the concession goes no farther, the following words making a new hypothesis.Nevertheless, being (by habit and standing, ὑπάρχ.) crafty (unprincipled, and versatile in devices), I caught yon with guile (with some more subtle way. Caught you, in order to practise upon you for my own ends; but ἔλαβον is not ἐπλεονέκτησα, as Chrys., Hom. xxviii. p. 633:—see ref. and note).

Verses 16-18

16–18.] He refutes a possible, perhaps an actual calumny,—that though he had acted disinterestedly towards them himself, he had some side-way of profiting by them, through others.

Verses 17-18

17, 18.] Specification, in refutation, of the ways in which this might be supposed to have taken place. The construction τινα ὧνδιʼ αὐτοῦ is an anacoluthon. He sets τινα ὧν ἀπέστ. πρ. ὑμ. forward in the place of emphasis; how intending to govern τινα, is not plain: but drops the construction, and proceeds, διʼ αὐτοῦ κ. τ. λ. See examples of the same in reff., and Winer, edn. 6, § 63. i. 2. d.

Verse 18

18.] παρεκάλεσα, scil. ‘to go to you:’ see reff. This journey of Titus cannot, of course, be the one spoken of ch. 2 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 8:17; 2 Corinthians 8:22; 2 Corinthians 8:24; but some previous mission to them before this Epistle was written: probably that from which he returned with the report of their penitence to Paul in Macedonia, ch. 2 Corinthians 7:6 ff. We certainly have not elsewhere any hint of ὁ ἀδελφός having accompanied him on this journey: but this is no reason why it should not have been so.

τὸν ἀδελφόν—perhaps, one of the two mentioned ch. 2 Corinthians 8:18; 2 Corinthians 8:22; some other, well known to the Corinthians, but absolutely unknown to us: but not, a brother, as in E. V. It is plain from this and from what follows, that this brother was quite subordinate to Titus in the mission.

τῷ αὐτῷ πνεύμ.] dat. of the manner; see ref. The Spirit in which they walked was the Holy Spirit: τῷ αὐτῷ πνευματικῷ χαρίσματι· χάρισμα γὰρ καλεῖ τὸ στενούμενον μὴ λαβεῖν, Theophyl.

τοῖς αὐτ. ἴχν.] in the same footsteps, viz. each as the other: οὐδὲ μικρόν, φησί, παρεξῆλθον τὴν ἐμὴν ὁδόν, Theophyl. The dative ἴχνεσιν, as in ref.= ἐν ἴχνεσιν: see also Acts 14:16; Jude 1:11. Meyer cites Pind. Pyth. 2 Corinthians 12:20,— ἐμβέβακεν ἴχνεσιν πατρός, and Nem. vi. 27, ἴχνεσιν ἐν πραξιδάμαντος ἑὸν πόδα νέμων. Cf. also Philo de Caritate, § 2, vol. ii. p. 385, τοῖς αὐτοῖς ἴχνεσιν ἐπακολουθῆσαι.

Verse 19

19.] πάλαι was misunderstood, and πάλιν appears to have been a conjectural emendation, from ch. 2 Corinthians 3:1; 2 Corinthians 5:12. πάλαι does not suit the interrogative form of the sentence, which would throw it out into too strong emphasis. Lachmann, Tischdf. (ed. 7 [and 8]), Meyer, De Wette read it as in text:—Ye have been some time imagining (i.e. during this my self-defence) that it is to you that I am defending myself. Then the answer follows: the assumption being made, and elliptically answered, as in 2 Corinthians 12:16.

κατ. θεοῦ is emphatic, and opposed to ὑμῖν.

ἐν χρ. λαλοῦμεν, as in ch. 2 Corinthians 2:17, which see.

τὰ δὲ πάντα] supply either λαλοῦμεν, or better understand τὰ πάντα as ‘all our things’ (1 Corinthians 16:14), i.e. our words and deeds, and supply γίνεται, as there. Grot., Gries-bach, Scholz, and Olsh., would read τάδε πάντα, and join with λαλοῦμεν. But (1) Paul never uses the pronoun ὅδε; and (2) if he did, it must apply to what follows, not to what has preceded.

The insertion of the personal pronoun between the article and the noun, as in τῆς ὑμ. οἰκοδομῆς, occurs, as A. Buttmann has correctly remarked (see Moulton’s Winer, p. 193, note 4), in Paul only (see reff.), and with no other pronoun than ὑμῶν.

Verses 19-21

19–21.] He refutes the notion which might arise in the minds of his readers, that he was vindicating himself BEFORE THEM as judges, see 1 Corinthians 4:3; and assures them that he does all for their good, fearing in what state he might find them on his arrival.

Verse 20

20.] ‘Edification, of which you stand in need, for, &c.’ He here completely and finally throws off the apologist and puts on the Apostle, leaving on their minds a very different impression from that which would have been produced had he concluded with the apology. Lest, when I arrive, I should find you not such as I wish (in οὐχ οἵους θέλω is an indefinite possibility of aberration from οἵους θέλω, presently particularized, μή πως ἔρεις, κ. τ. λ.), and I should be found by you ( ὑμῖν merely the dative of the agent after the passive verb. Meyer makes it ‘in your judgment,’ but I much prefer the other: the passive form is adopted to bring out the ἐγώ into emphatic contrast), such as ye wish not (not οὐχ οἷον θέλετε, because there is now no indefiniteness; his disposition towards them in such a case could be but of one kind, viz. severity: τουτέστι, τιμωρὸς κ. κολαστής, Theophyl. Chrys., p. 634, brings out another point,— οὐκ εἶπεν, οἷον οὐ θέλω. ἀλλὰ πληκτικώτερον,— οἷον οὐ βούλεσθε).

What follows, viz. μή πωςἔπραξαν, is an epexegesis of the last sentence, but in it the definiteness is on the side of the οὐχ οἵους θέλω, the indefiniteness on that of οἷον οὐ θέλετε, which latter is only hinted at by the mild expressions of being humbled, and lamenting the case of the impenitent.

μή πως, scil. ὦσιν (or εὑρεθῶσιν) ἐν ὑμῖν. “The vehemence of his language has caused him to omit the verb.” Stanley.

ἐριθεῖαι, self-seekings, see note on ref. Rom.

ψιθ. secret malignings,— καταλ. open slanders. ἀκαταστ., see reff. and note.

Verse 21

21.] μή carries on the μή πωςμή πως, but with more precision, dropping the indefinite πως. The sentence loses much in force and, indeed, becomes inconsistent with the context, if with Lachmann (and Lücke, Conjectanea exeget. i. De W.) it be made interrogative (which it may be grammatically with either reading, ταπεινώσει or - σῃ), in which case the answer would be negative.

πάλιν here, as Meyer observes, must belong to the whole ελθόντος μου ταπεινώσει με ὁ θ. μ. πρὸς ὑμ., because, ἐλθών having been used without πάλιν just before, the emphatic situation of πάλιν as applying to it would be unmeaning: see also the very different way in which it is connected with ἔλθω, ch. 2 Corinthians 13:2.

ταπεινώσει] ‘Nihil erat quo magis exultaret apostolus, quam prospero suæ prædicationis successu (1 Thessalonians 2:20): contra nihil erat, unde tristiore et demissiore animo redderetur, quam quum cernerct, se frustra laborasse,’ Beza (Meyer). The fut. (ref.) indicates an assumption that the supposed case will really be. That this humbling, and not that of being obliged to punish, is intended, seems evident: the exercise of judicial authority being no humiliation, but the contrary, and humiliation being the natural result of want of success.

ὁ θεός μου expresses the conviction that whatever humiliation God might have in store for him would be a part of His will respecting him.

πρὸς ὑμᾶς] among you, as the generality of interpreters: ‘in regard to you,’ in my relation to you, as Meyer. Either may be meant: but if we take the former, we must not join it, as Grot., al., with ἐλθόντος: it belongs at all events to ταπεινώσει.

πενθήσω] Theophyl. explains, μὴ ἐλθὼν κολάσῃ αὐτούς, καὶ πενθήσῃ διὰ τοῦτο· τουτέστι, τὰ ἔσχατα λυπηθῇ: so also al. and Billroth, Rückert, Olsh., and De Wette. But punishment seems out of place in this verse, which expresses his fear lest he should be humbled for, and have to lament the case of the impenitent,—and then, as he declares ch. 2 Corinthians 13:2, be forced to proceed to discipline; but this point is not yet introduced. I much prefer therefore taking it as Chrys., p. 635,— τοὺς μὴ μετανοοῦντας πενθαῖ, τοὺς τὰ ἀνίατα νοσοῦντας, τοὺς ἐν τῷ τραύματι μένοντας. ἐννόησον τοίνυν ἀποστολικὴν ἀρετήν, ὅταν μηδὲν ἑαυτῷ συνειδὼς πονηρόν, ὑρὲρ ἀλλοτρίων θρηνῇ κακῶν, καὶ ὑπὲρ τῶν ἑτέροις πλημμελημένων ταπεινῶται. τοῦτο γὰρ μάλιστα τοῦ διδασκάλου, τὸ οὕτω συναλγεῖν ταῖς τῶν μαθητῶν συμφοραῖς, τὸ κόπτεσθαι καὶ πενθεῖν ἐπὶ τοῖς τραύμασι τῶν ἀρχομένων. Similarly Calvin: ‘veri et germani Pastoris affectum nobis exprimit, quum luctu aliorum peccata se prosequuturum dicit. Et sane ita agendum est, ut suam quisque Pastor Ecclesiam animo inclusam gestet, ejus morbis perinde ac suis afficiatur, miseriis condolescat, peccato lugeat.’ So Estius, but perhaps too minutely fixing the meaning of πενθεῖν to mourning them as “Deo mortuos:” and Calovius (Meyer): “non de pœna hic Corinthiorum impœnitentium, sed de mœrore suo super impœnitentia:” and so likewise Meyer.

πολλ. τ. προημ.] Why πολλούς? Why not all? I believe he uses πολλοὺς τῶν προημαρτηκότων as a mild expression for τοὺς πολλοὺς τοὺς προημαρτηκότας, and that we must not therefore press too closely the enquiry as to what the genus οἱ προημ. is, of which the πολλοί are the species. Lücke (as above) cited by Meyer, explains—“Cogitavit rem ita, ut primum poneret Christianorum ex ethnicis potissimum τῶν προημ. κ. μὴ μετανοησάντων genus universum, cujus generis homines essent ubique ecclesiarum, deinde vero ex isto hominum genere multos eos qui Corinthi essent, designaret definiretque.” But this seems travelling quite out of the way. Meyer explains the genus to be all the sinners spoken of in 2 Corinthians 12:20, the species ( πολλούς) those designated by ἀκαθαρς., πορν., and ἀσελγ. But this again is unnatural; and does not accurately fit 2 Corinthians 12:20, in which not so much the προημαρτημένα as the present state at the Apostle’s coming, is the subject.

The distinction between the two participles, προημ. and μετανοησάντων, should be observed. As Meyer well remarks, the perf. προημαρτηκότων denotes the permanence of the state from the time of the committal of the sin: Whereas the aor. μετανοησάντων has the sense of the ‘futurum exactum,’—“and who at my coming shall not have repented.” To what does προ- refer? to the time before their conversion? Hardly so: for the sins, of the incestuous person 1 Corinthians 5, and of these also, which would give the Apostle such pain, must be conceived to have been committed in their Christian state: being in fact those against which we find such repeated cautions in 1 Cor., e.g. ch. 1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 6:15; 1 Corinthians 6:18; 1 Corinthians 10:8; 1 Corinthians 15:33-34. I would therefore understand the προ- indefinitely, almost pleonastically—pointing to the priority of sin implied in the idea of repentance.

μεταν. ἐπί] Meyer would join together πενθήσωἐπί, and indicates this as the natural connexion of verb, object, and ground. But to say nothing of the harshness of πενθήσω πολλοὺς ἐπί, and the almost necessarily reflective form of μετανοης. ἐπὶ τῇ ἀκ.… ᾗ ἔπραξαν,—I conceive the aorist ἔπραξαν to be fatal to this arrangement. Thus taken, it would make the Apostle lament over these impenitents, on account of the impurity, &c., which they ἔπραξαν—i.e. once practised, but which is now gone by. The sense would require πεπράχασι. Whereas if connected with μετανοησάντων, the aorist expresses ‘and shall not have (repented of the ἀκ., &c., which they practised),’ and would thus come rightly after μετα νοης., implying the removal of the former state of sin.

μεταν. is usually constructed with ἀπό, Acts 8:22 (Hebrews 6:1), or ἐκ, Rev. only,—Revelation 2:21 f.; Revelation 9:20 f; Revelation 16:11; but as Paul only uses the word this once, and as the construction with ἐπί is perfectly legitimate and highly expressive (see reff. LXX), there can be no objection to it here.

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Bibliographical Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 12". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.