Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians

Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New TestamentMeyer's Commentary

- 2 Corinthians

by Heinrich Meyer

























I REGRET that the issue of the present volume has been somewhat delayed, partly by unlooked-for hindrances to the progress of the translators, partly by an illness which made it necessary for me to suspend for a time the work of revision. Mr. Bannerman has here completed his excellent version of the Commentary on the First Epistle; and the Commentary on the Second has been translated with skill and care by my young friend and former pupil, the Rev. David Hunter, of Kelso. I have revised both throughout in the interest of uniformity on the same principles as heretofore.

W. P. D.

GLASGOW COLLEGE, February 1879.



S INCE the year 1862, in which the fourth edition of this Commentary was issued, the only exegetical work calling for mention on the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (except a Roman Catholic one) is that of von Hofmann. My relation to this work has already been indicated in the preface to the Commentary on the First Epistle; it could not be different in the exposition of the Second, and it will doubtless remain unaltered as regards the Pauline writings that are still to follow, as is apparent already in the case of the Epistle to the Galatians, my exposition of which I likewise am now issuing in a new edition.

The much-discussed questions of Introduction whether between our two Epistles to the Corinthians there intervened a letter which has been lost, and whether the adversaries so sharply portrayed and severely censured by the apostle in the Second Epistle belonged to the Christ-party have recently been handled afresh in special treatises with critical skill and acumen; and the general result, although with diversities in detail, points to an affirmative answer. After careful investigation I have found myself constrained to abide by the negative view; and I must still, as regards the second question, hold the Christine party to be the most innocent of the four, so that they are wrongly, in my judgment, made responsible for all the evil which Paul asserts of his opponents in the Second Epistle. I am at a loss to know, how so much that is bad can be brought into inward ethical connection with the simple confession ἐγὼ δὲ Χριστοῦ , without calling in the aid of hypotheses incapable of being proved; or how, moreover, Paul should not already in his First Epistle, which was followed up by the Second in the very same year, have discovered the thoroughly dangerous springs and movements of this party-tendency; or lastly, and most of all, how Clement of Rome, while recalling to the recollection of his readers the three other factions, should not even in a single word have mentioned the Christ-party, although in looking back on the past he could not but have had before his eyes the whole historical development of the fourfold division, and in particular the mischief for which the Christians were to blame, if there were in truth anything of the sort. I have not met with any real elucidation of these points among the acute supporters of the opposite view.

In wishing for this new edition a kindly circle of readers, not led astray either by the presupposition of the dogmatist or by the tendency to import and educe subjective ideas, as I may be allowed to do all the more earnestly on account of the special difficulties that mark the present letter of the apostle,

I commit all work done for the science which applies itself soberly, faithfully, and devotedly to the service of the divine word desiring and seeking nothing else than a sure historical understanding of that word to the protection and the blessing of Him, who can do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask and understand. Under this protection we can do nothing against the truth, everything for the truth.

HANNOVER, 21 st June 1870.





[114] 1 See Klöpper, Exeg. krit. Unters. üb. d. zweiten Brief d. Paulus an d. Gemeinde zu Kor ., Gött. 1869.

B EFORE the composition of our first Epistle, Paul had sent Timothy to Corinth (1 Corinthians 4:17 ); he assumed, in regard to him, that he would arrive there later than the Epistle (1 Corinthians 16:10 f.), and he might therefore expect from him accounts of the impression which it made, and its result. Certainly Timothy is again with Paul, while he is composing the second Epistle (2 Corinthians 1:1 ); but there is no mention of news brought by him. Hence Eichhorn was of opinion (also Räbiger and Hofmann) that he had again left Corinth even before the arrival of our first Epistle in that city; others, however (Ziegler, Bertholdt, Neander, Credner, Rückert, de Wette, Reuss, Maier), assumed that he had not come to Corinth at all , but had returned from Macedonia, where he had made too long a stay, to Ephesus (Acts 19:22 ). [115] But against the latter view may be urged the fact that, according to 1 Corinthians 4:17 , Timothy was quite distinctly delegated to Corinth, i.e. was commissioned to visit Corinth from Macedonia (comp. Acts 19:22 ); hence we are not justified in believing that he left this apostolic mission unfulfilled, or that Paul himself had cancelled it, otherwise we should necessarily expect the apostle in this second Epistle to have explained to his readers why Timothy did not come, especially as the anti-Pauline party would not have failed to turn the non-appearance of Timothy to account for their hostile ends (comp. 2 Corinthians 1:17 ). Eichhorn’s opinion presupposes that the bearers of the first letter lingered on the journey (1 Corinthians 16:17 ), which there is the less ground to assume as these men presumably had no other aim than to return from Ephesus to Corinth. In opposition to the opinions that Timothy did not get so far as Corinth, or that he left it again prematurely, compare, in general, Klöpper, p. 4 ff. It must therefore be held that Paul had received from Timothy news of the impression which the former Epistle had made . The fact that he makes no mention of this is explained from the circumstance that, in 2 Corinthians 1:1 , Timothy himself appears as joint-sender of the Epistle; whence not only was it obvious to the reader that Timothy on his return had made communications to the apostle, but it would have been unbecoming and awkward if Paul had said that he had received from Timothy accounts of the result of his Epistle. For these accounts, viz. those of the first impression made by the letter, must have been by no means tranquillizing for Paul ( 2Co 2:12 , 2 Corinthians 7:5 ff.). It is true that in Philippians 2:19 the joint-sender of the letter is named as a third person, but there the state of the case is quite different (in opposition to Hofmann), namely, a special recommendation of Timothy, just as the relation of the apostle himself to the church in Philippi with which he was so affectionately intimate was very diverse from that in which he stood to the Corinthians.

[115] Chap. 2 Corinthians 12:17-18 is also quoted in confirmation of this view; for, it is said, if Timothy had come to Corinth, Paul could not but have mentioned him here. See especially, Rückert, p. 409. But Paul may, during the time when he was not at Corinth himself, have sent to the church there many a one whom he does not here name. He names only the last, Titus . Besides, Timothy was in fact joint-writer of our Epistle.

But besides Timothy, Titus also at a later period brought to the apostle, who meanwhile had travelled by way of Troas to Macedonia, intelligence of the result of his letter (2 Corinthians 2:12 , 2 Corinthians 7:5 ff.). Paul had delegated the latter to Corinth after our first Epistle, [116] and after Timothy had again arrived in Ephesus from the journey mentioned in 1 Corinthians 16:10 f., comp. 2 Corinthians 4:17 ; and it is natural that from Titus he should have received further (as also more tranquillizing) intelligence than from Timothy, because the former came later to Corinth.

[116] Schrader, indeed (I. pp. 137, 262), and Billroth, to whose view Rückert also inclines, have assumed that Titus was sent to Corinth before our first Epistle, perhaps with the one now lost, and on account of the matter of the collection, and that he was therefore in that city when our first Epistle arrived there. But in that case Paul would have mentioned Titus in his first Epistle (especially 1 Corinthians 16:1 ff.), just as he mentions Timothy; and at least a greeting to him would not have been forgotten. Billroth thinks that Paul had probably already in the lost Epistle said enough in recommendation of Titus. But does this make a greeting in the Epistle that follows superfluous? Rückert says that the bearers of our first Epistle had perhaps brought with them a special letter to Titus, or instructions by word of mouth, which, however, is a mere conjecture to which he is constrained to resort. Müller also, De trib. Pauli itineribus Corinth . susceptis , Bas. 1831, agrees with Schrader, without, however, admitting the loss of an Epistle, at 1 Corinthians 5:9 .

The occasion of our Epistle, which Titus was to bear (2 Corinthians 8:6 ), was therefore given by the accounts which first of all Timothy, but mainly Titus, had brought regarding the effect produced by the previous letter on the dispositions and relations of the Corinthian church .


The special object that Paul had in sending Titus to Corinth we do not know; for 2 Corinthians 8:6 does not refer to this journey (see 1 Corinthians 16:23-24 ), but to the later, second journey, in which this Epistle itself was entrusted to him. The supposition of Eichhorn, Bertholdt, Neander, de Wette, and some others, that the apostle had despatched Titus out of anxiety about the impression which his first Epistle might make on the Corinthians, is a conjecture which receives some probability from 2 Corinthians 2:12 , 2 Corinthians 7:5 ff., especially if we suppose that, before Titus was sent off, Timothy had returned with very disquieting news. Bleek (in the Stud. u. Krit. 1830, p. 625 ff., and in his Introduction ) supposes, and Credner ( Einleit . I. 2, p. 371), Olshausen, Neander, Hilgenfeld ( Zeitschr. 1864, p. 167), Beyschlag (in the Stud. u. Krit. 1865, p. 253), and Klöpper ( l.c. p. 3 ff.) agree with him, that Paul, after Timothy’s return, sent to the Corinthians by Titus a letter of very strong reproof (which is now lost). But our first Epistle contained enough especially after Timothy had already brought with him disquieting news to excite in Paul apprehensions regarding the severity of his letter (1 Corinthians 1:15 ff.,1 Corinthians 3:2-3 , 1 Corinthians 4:8 ; 1Co 4:18-18 , 1 Corinthians 5:1 ff., 1 Corinthians 6:8 , 1 Corinthians 11:17 ff., al. ), enough to be used by the evil-disposed in bringing a charge of boastfulness (1 Corinthians 2:16 , 1 Corinthians 4:1 ff., 1Co 4:9 , 1 Corinthians 14:18 , 1 Corinthians 15:8 ; 1 Corinthians 15:10 , al. ); while the second Epistle contains nothing which required Bleek’s supposition to explain it, as will appear at such passages as 2 Corinthians 2:3-4 ff., 2Co 7:8 ; 2 Corinthians 7:11 ; 2 Corinthians 7:14 , al. ; see in general, in opposition to Bleek’s hypothesis, Müller, de tribus Pauli itineribus , p. 34 ff.; Wurm, in the Tüb. Zeitschr. 1833, 1, p. 66 ff.; Wieseler, Chronol. des apost. Zeitalt. p. 366 ff.; Baur, Hofmann, and others. According to Ewald, as he has more precisely defined and modified ( Sendschr. des Ap. Paulus , p. 224 ff. [117] ) his earlier hypothetical arrangement ( Jahrb. II. p. 227 f.), the position of things in Corinth after our first Epistle had in part been aggravated, especially by a Petrine opponent of Paul from Jerusalem; Paul had got information of this from Timothy on his return and otherwise, and had himself made a short journey from Ephesus to Corinth in order to restore harmony to the church; after his departure, being calumniated and slandered anew (especially by a member of very high repute), he then sent from Ephesus a very severe letter by Titus to Corinth; and this letter, which has not been preserved to us, brought the church to bethink itself, as he learned from Titus, who joined him in Macedonia. On this account, and also because there still remained various evils to be rectified, he at last wrote our second Epistle to the Corinthians, and had it sent likewise by means of Titus. A supposition of this kind is necessary, if the person mentioned in 2 Corinthians 2:5 ff. cannot be the one guilty of incest in 5. But see on 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 ; and for the supposed intermediate journey to Corinth, see § 2, remark.

[117] Comp. also his Gesch. d. apost. Zeit . p. 520 ff., Exodus 3:0

The aim of the Epistle is stated by Paul himself at 2 Corinthians 13:10 , viz. to put the church before his arrival in person into that frame of mind, which it was necessary that he should find, in order that he might thereupon set to work among them, not with stern corrective authority, but for their edification. But in order to attain this aim, he had to make it his chief task to elucidate, confirm, and vindicate his apostolic authority, which, in consequence of his former letter, had been assailed still more vehemently, openly, and influentially by opponents. For, if that were regained, his whole influence would be regained; if the church were again confirmed on this point, and the opposition defeated, every hindrance to his successful personal labour amongst them would be removed. With the establishment of his apostolic character and reputation he is therefore chiefly occupied in the whole Epistle; everything else is only subordinate, including a detailed appeal respecting the collection.

As to contents , the whole falls, after the salutation and introduction, into three parts: I. Paul sets forth his apostolic character and course of life, and interweaves with it affectionate outpourings of his heart over the impression produced by his former letter, an ingenious apology, closing with expressions of praise and confidence, [118] chap. 1 7. II. Regarding the collection, chap. 8, 9. III. Polemical assertion of his apostolic dignity against its opponents, with some irritation, and even not without sarcasm and bitterness, but forcible and triumphant. Conclusion.

[118] Luther, Preface: “In the first Epistle, St. Paul rebuked the Corinthians severely on many points, and poured sharp wine into their wounds, and alarmed them. But now an apostle should bhe a comforting preacher, … therefore he praises them anew in this Epistle, and pours oil into the wounds,” etc.


The excitement and varied play of emotion with which Paul wrote this letter, probably also in haste, certainly make the expression not seldom obscure and the sentences less flexible, but only heighten our admiration of the great delicacy, skill, and power with which this outpouring of Paul’s spirit and heart, possessing as a defence of himself a high and peculiar interest, flows and gushes on, till finally, in the last part, wave on wave overwhelms the hostile resistance. In reference to this, Erasmus aptly says, in the dedication of his Paraphr. : “Sudatur ab eruditissimis viris in explicandis poetarum ac rhetorum consiliis, at in hoc rhetore longe plus sudoris est, ut deprehendas quid agat, quo tendat, quid vetet; adeo stropharum plenus est undique, absit invidia verbis. Tanta vafricies est, non credas eundem hominem loqui. Nunc ut limpidus quidam fons sensim ebullit, mox torrentis in morem ingenti fragore devolvitur, multa obiter secum rapiens, nunc placide leniterque fluit, nunc late, velut in lacum diffusus, exspatiatur. Rursum alicubi se condit, ac diverso loco subitus emicat, cum visum est, miris Maeandris nunc has nunc illas lambit ripas, aliquoties procul digressus, reciprocato flexu in sese redit.” [119]

[119] We may confidently apply to our Epistle what Dionysius, De admir. vi dic. in Deuteronomy 8:0; Deuteronomy 8:0 , says of Demosthenes’ mode of speaking, which he calls: μεγαλοπρεπῆ , λιτὴν · περιττὴν , ἀπέριττον · ἐξηλλαγμένην , συνήθη · πανηγυρικὴν , ἀληθινὴν · αὐστηρὰν , ἱλαρὰν · σύντονον , ἀνειμένην · ἡδεῖαν , πικρὰν · ἠθικὴν , παθητικήν .


The opponents specially combated from chap. 10 onwards, were at any rate Judaists (2 Corinthians 11:22 ; Räbiger, p. 191 ff.; Neander), and therefore, from a party point of view, to be reckoned as belonging to the Petrine section. It is only the Petrine , and not the Christine party (Schenkel, Goldhorn, Kniewel, Baur, de Wette, Thiersch, Osiander, Beyschlag, Hilgenfeld, Klöpper), that suits the character of disputing, directly and specially, the apostolic authority of Paul , whether we regard the Christines as a party by themselves, or, with Baur (see on 1 Corinthians 1:12 ), as part of the Petrines.


The division of the Epistle into two halves, separate in point of time , so that the part up to 2 Corinthians 7:1 was written before the arrival of Titus, and the part from 2 Corinthians 7:2 onwards after it (Wieseler, p. 356 ff.), cannot be justified either exegetically or psychologically on the ground of 2 Corinthians 7:6 ; while, on the ground of 2 Corinthians 2:12-14 , it can only be regarded as exegetically inadmissible.


When Paul wrote this letter, he was no longer in Ephesus (2 Corinthians 1:8 ), but had already arrived by way of Troas in Macedonia (2 Corinthians 2:13 , 2Co 7:5 , 2 Corinthians 8:1 , 2 Corinthians 9:2 , comp. Acts 20:1 ), where Titus, whom he had already expected with longing in Troas (2 Corinthians 2:12 ), returned to him. A more precise specification of the place (the subscriptions in B and in many later codd., also in the Peshito, name Philippi ) cannot be made good. The date of composition appears to be the same year, 58 (yet not before the month Tisri, see on 2 Corinthians 8:10 ), in which, shortly before Easter, he had written our First Epistle, and after Pentecost had left Ephesus (see Introd. to 1 Cor. § 3). Paul at that time intended to come to Corinth for the third time, as he actually did soon after his letter to his readers (Acts 20:2 ).


From 2Co 2:1 , 2 Corinthians 12:14 ; 2 Corinthians 12:21 , 2 Corinthians 13:1-2 , it follows of necessity that Paul, before he wrote his Epistles to the Corinthians, had been in Corinth, not once only, on the occasion when he founded the church (as Reiche in his Comment, crit . seeks again to establish), but twice . For in 2 Corinthians 13:1 , τρίτον τοῦτο ἔρχομαι cannot mean, “I am now on the point of coming for the third time:” hence also 2 Corinthians 13:2 must be understood of a second visit which had already taken place; in 2 Corinthians 2:1 and 2 Corinthians 12:21 , ἐν λύπῃ and ταπεινώσῃ (which latter is to be connected with πάλιν ) cannot refer to the first visit; and finally, in 2 Corinthians 12:14 , τρίτον must belong to ἐλθεῖν , not to ἑτοίμως ἔχω , as is made certain by the context (see the commentary on these passages). With justice, therefore, has this view been maintained, after Chrysostom, Oecumenius, and Theophylact, by Erasmus, Baronius, Mill, Michaelis, and others, and recently by Schrader, Bleek (in the Stud. u. Krit. 1830, p. 614 ff.), Müller ( Diss. de trib. Pauli itineribus Corinthum , etc., Basil. 1831), Schott ( Erört. einiger wicht. chronol. Punkte , p. 51 ff.), Schnecken burger ( Beitr. p. 166), Wurm, Anger ( rat. temp. p. 70 ff.), Billroth, Credner, Olshausen, Rückert, Wieseler, Reuss, Osiander, Hofmann, and others. See the commentary in opposition to the explaining away of these passages, according to which “the third journey of Paul to Corinth is a fiction” (Lange, apost. Zeitalt. I. p. 199; comp. Baur in the theol. Jahrb. 1850, 2, p. 139 ff., and in his Paulus , I. p. 339 ff., Exodus 2:0 ). But it cannot be definitely decided whether the second journey to Corinth is to be placed in the time of the three years’ stay at Ephesus (Schrader, Billroth, Olshausen, Rückert, Wieseler, Reuss, and Hofmann; Bleek is also inclined to this), or whether it is to be considered only as the return from a longer excursion during the eighteen months’ stay in Corinth (Baronius, Michaelis, Schmidt, Schott, Anger; favoured by Bleek; comp. Neander on 2 Corinthians 2:1 ); for ἵνα δευτέραν χάριν ἔχητε , in 2 Corinthians 1:15 , testifies neither for nor against either of these views (see on this passage). Still by that very circumstance the latter view loses its support, and has, besides, against it the point that, as the first and third journeys were special journeys to Corinth, so also his second journey, to which he refers by τρίτον τοῦτο ἔρχομαι , and the like, is most naturally to be regarded as a special journey, and not as a mere return from a wider excursion. See, moreover, Wieseler, p. 239. The proposal to place the second journey to Corinth between our first and a lost Epistle which preceded our second (Ewald, see § 1), finds, apart altogether from the lost letter being an hypothesis, no sufficient confirmation in the passages concerned, 2 Corinthians 2:1 , 2Co 12:14 , 2 Corinthians 13:1 f., and has 2 Corinthians 1:23 ( οὐκέτι ) against it; comp. 1 Corinthians 16:5 ff. and 2 Corinthians 1:15 f.

The genuineness of our Epistle (see, after less certain indications in the apostolic Fathers and Justin, Irenaeus, Haer . ii. 7. 1, iv. 28. 3; Athenagoras, de resurr . p. 61, ed. Col.; Clement, Strom . iv. p. 514, ed. Sylb.; Tertullian, de pudic . 13) is as internally certain and as unanimously attested and undisputed as that of the first; in fact, we need hardly notice, even historically, the strange theory invented by Bolten and Bertholdt, that it was translated (by Timothy) from the Aramaic.

The unity of the Epistle has been contested by Semler and Weber; while it has been most arbitrarily cut up into three letters by Weisse (see his Beitr. u. Krit. d. Paul. Br ., edited by Sulze, p. 9). Semler (see Keggemann, praes . Semler, de duplici ep. ad Rom. append ., Hal. 1767, and Semler, Paraphr. 1776) cuts it up into the following three letters: (1) chap. 2 Corinthians 1:8 , Romans 16:0 , and 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 ; (2) 2 Corinthians 10:1 to 2 Corinthians 13:10 ; (3) chap. 9, as a special leaf which was intended, not for Corinth, but for the Christians in Achaia. In opposition to this, see Gabler, de capp. ult . ix. xiii. poster, ep. P. ad Cor. ab eadem haud separand ., Gött. 1782. Weber ( de numero epp. P. ad Cor. rectius constituendo , 1798) was of opinion that there were originally two letters: (1) chap. 1 9 and 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 ; (2) chap. 2 Corinthians 10:1 to 2 Corinthians 13:10 . Similarly, also, von Greeve (in Royaards de altera P. ad Cor. ep ., Traj. ad Rhen. 1818), who, however, considers as the first letter only chap. 1 8 In opposition to these attempts at dismemberment may be urged not only the whole body of the critical witnesses, but also the certainty that the abruptness of chap. 9 is only apparent, and that the contrasting tone of chap. 10 13 is easily explained [120] by the altered mood of the apostle.

With regard to the originality of 2 Corinthians 6:14 to 2 Corinthians 7:1 , see on 2 Corinthians 6:12 , remark.

[120] Hug, Einl . II. § 108, says very pertinently: “Who would on that account break up the speech of Demosthenes pro Corona into two parts, because in the more general vindication calm and caution prevail; whereas, in heaping shame and castigation on the informer, in the parallel between him and Aeschines, words of bitter mockery gush forth impetuously like a thunder-shower.”