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Bible Commentaries

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

2 Corinthians 12

Verse 1

2 Corinthians 12:1 . Δὴ ) truly . οὐ συμφέρει μοι , it is not expedient for me ) on account of the danger of becoming elated, and of the buffetings of Satan, and of hindering the exercise of Christ’s power. ἐλεύσομαι ) I will come , he does not say, I come . He does not eagerly run at it; so, I will glory , not I glory , at the very conclusion of 2 Corinthians 12:5 . γὰρ , for ) The cause, stated in the form of a short preface. ὀπτασίας καὶ ἀποκαλύψεις , visions and revelations ) Visions , in reference to seeing; revelations , to hearing, 1 Samuel 9:15 , LXX. Both in the plural number, because those raptures had two degrees [when he was caught up first “to the third heaven,” 2 Corinthians 12:2 ; then “into paradise,” 2Co 12:4 ], as he presently mentions. So of revelations , 2 Corinthians 12:7 . Paul had more visions and revelations, independently of these here. Κυριου , of the Lord ) 2 Corinthians 12:8 , i.e. , of Christ, 2 Corinthians 12:2 .

Verse 2

2 Corinthians 12:2 . Οἶδα · εἶτε · ἁρπαγέντα , I knew: whether: caught up ) These things, repeated in the next verse, not only keep the reader in pleasant suspense, sharpen his mind, and add weight to well-considered [just] glorying (boasting); but also plainly express a double movement in this action. Clemens Alex. Strom. 50. v. ἓως τρίτου οὐρανοῦ , κᾀκεῖθεν εἰς τὸν παράδεισον , f. 427. So also Irenaeus, l. 2, c. (56) 55 (where Grabius adds Justinus M., Methodius, and of more recent writers Jeremy Taylor), likewise 50:5, c. 36, where (comp. Matthew 13:23 ; Joh 14:2 ) he infers different habitations from the diversity among those who produce fruit [fruits of faith], and fixes a difference of abode, διαστολὴν οἰκήσεως , for those who have their joy in heaven, in paradise, in the splendour of the city. Athanasius in Apol., καὶ ἕως τρίτου οὐρανοῦ ἡρπάσθη καὶ εἰς τὸν παράδεισον ἀνηνέχθη , “and he was caught up into the third heaven, and was borne up into paradise.” Orig. or his translator, on Romans 16:0 , has these words, into the third heaven, and thence into paradise . Oecumenius, ἡρπάγη ἕως τρίτου οὐρανοῦ καὶ πάλιν ἐκεῖθεν εἰς τὸν παράδεισον , “he was caught up to the third heaven, and again thence into paradise.” That different revelations are mentioned in this passage is acknowledged by Hilariu [82] Diac. Primasius, Anselm, Pope Gregory in Estius, as well as Jerome on Ezekiel 28., Pelag. on this passage, Cassiodor. Haymo, Aquinas. The occurrence of the expression, lest I should be exalted , twice, corresponds to the fact, that he was twice caught up. Certainly paradise , coming last in the gradation with the emphatic article, denotes some inner recess in the third heaven, rather than the third heaven itself; an opinion which was very generally held by the ancients. See Gregor. Obs., c. 18; comp. Luke 23:43 , note, and Revelation 2:7 . Therefore the privilege was vouchsafed to Paul only to hear the things of paradise; but he was permitted also to see the things of the third heaven; comp. the preceding verse; although even of the latter he speaks somewhat sparingly. The force of the verb οἶδα , I know , falls particularly upon the participle caught; comp. ὅτι , how that , 2 Corinthians 12:4 . πρὸ ἐτῶν δεκατεσσάρων , fourteen years ago ) construed with ἁρπαγέντα , caught . He recounts something that had occurred in former times: after a long period every one seems to have become different from himself (what he was before); so that he may the more freely relate the good and evil which he has experienced. [ Truly it was a long silence (he had maintained as to the revelations to him), and yet he had been engaged (conversant) among the Corinthians not for a short time, and was united to them in the closest bonds of intimacy . V. g.] ἐν σώματι , in the body ) This is without the article; then ἐκτὸς τοῦ σώματος , out of the body , with the article; and so consistently with this, the words are found in the next verse. Paul seems to be of opinion , that he was out of the body. Howsoever this may be, Claudianus Mamertus de Statu animae, c. 12, righty concludes from this, that the better part of man is incorporeal; and this, the soul itself, was the part caught up. Whatever existed, independently of the body of Paul, was without the body, or else within it. οὐκ οἶδα , I know not . Ignorance of the mode does not take away the certain knowledge of the thing. The apostles were ignorant of many things. ἁρπαγέντα , caught up ) Comp. Acts 8:39 , note. ἕως ) even to , far into the third heaven; comp. εἰς , into , 2 Corinthians 12:4 . Is therefore paradise not included in the third heaven? Ans. ἕως , even to , is inclusive, as Luke 2:15 , etc. τρίτου , third ) The first heaven is that of the clouds; the second is that of the stars; the third is spiritual. The dual number in שמים denotes the two visible heavens. The nomenclature of the third , which eye hath not seen, has been reserved for the New Testament; comp. Ephesians 4:10 , note.

[82] ilarius (a Latin father: died 368 A.D.) Ed. Maurinorum, Paris. 1693.

Verse 3

2 Corinthians 12:3 . Καὶ , and ) The particle here is expressive of a new movement in this transaction. Suppose, that the third heaven and paradise , were quite synonymous; the force of Paul’s language will be greatly diminished. τὸν τοιοῦτον , such a one ) τὸν ἐν Χριστῷ , him who was in Christ . εἴτε , whether ) This word is repeated, because, even if in the body he was caught up to the third heaven, nevertheless, rising to a higher degree, he might have been caught up to paradise without the body.

Verse 4

2 Corinthians 12:4 . Ἄῤῥητα ) unspeakable words , not in themselves; otherwise Paul could not have heard them; but not to be spoken by man , as the word follows presently after, and therefore, by Paul himself. Who spoke those words? God, or Christ, or an angel or angels, or the spirits of the just? and to whom? Paul does not tell, if he knew. They were certainly words of great sublimity, for all heavenly words are not unspeakable , for example Exodus 34:6 ; Isaiah 6:3 , and yet these are very sublime. οὐκ ἐξὸν , it is not lawful ) ἐξὸν and δυνατὸν , lawful and possible are said of that which neither the thing itself, nor the law forbids. Therefore, unspeakable words , and it is not lawful mutually explain each other, and affirm either that man cannot speak these words, or that it is not lawful for him to do so. Others, who did not hear them, cannot; Paul, who did hear them, is not sufficiently able; and though he were able, yet it would not be lawful, it would not be proper in the state of mortality; because the inhabitants of the earth would not understand them, John 3:12 . Hearing has a wider range than speaking. ἀνθρώπῳ , for a man ) construed with it is lawful . The power of speaking is often narrower than that of knowledge.

Verse 5

2 Corinthians 12:5 . Ὑπὲρ τοῦ τοιούτον , in respect to such a one ) in the Masc. The antithesis is, of myself . We ought to remove the I from important matters. This verse has two parts, the one has the reason assigned [aetiologia] in the following verse; the other is explained, 2 Corinthians 12:7-8 . καυχήσομαι , I will glory ) i.e. I might glory; comp. 2Co 12:6 at the beginning.

Verse 6

2 Corinthians 12:6 . Οὐκ ἔσομαι ἄφρων , I shall not be a fool ) In the preceding chapter also he spake the truth , and yet he ascribes folly to himself; namely, because he gloried concerning things by no means glorious [viz. his sufferings], hence of things most glorious. φείδομαι , I forbear ) I treat of these things sparingly. μή τις , lest any one ) O how many are there even among theologians, who have no reverent dread in treating of such things! [ Not a few allow themselves to be thought of both at home and abroad more highly than is lawful; but how remarkably may they be considered as defrauding themselves in that way of a share in the honour which is in the power of GOD. If indeed you rejoice in the privileges of the sons of GOD, see that this your light may shine, but remember to use with caution and moderation extraordinary circumstances . V. g.] βλέπει · ἀκούει , sees, hears ) in common life, while I am unable to prevent it.

Verse 7

2 Corinthians 12:7 . Ἵνα μὴ ὑπεραίρωμαι , lest I should be exalted ) In all the things, which Paul did, and which rendered him great, beloved, and admired among men, he might be less worthy of praise [elated] than in those, of which he was alone conscious to himself. The mind is vain and weak, which applauds itself on account of the applause of men. The better things [the preferable objects of desire] are within. [ How dangerous must the exaltation of one’s self be, when the apostle required so much restraint . V. g.] σκόλοψ ) Hesychius: σκόλοπες , ὀξέα ξύλα ὀρθὰ , σταυροί , a sharp pointed stake is denoted; comp. the LXX., Numbers 33:55 ; Ezekiel 28:24 . This general word is presently explained in a particular manner by those buffetings: and this double explanation does not require a third, variously attempted by those, who give a wrong meaning to the buffetings . τῇ σαρκὶ , in the flesh ) The ablative case, in the flesh , for the purpose of macerating the flesh. The same case occurs, 1 Peter 3:18 ; 1Pe 4:1 ; 1 Peter 4:6 . This weakness was greater than all those, which had been enumerated in the preceding chapter, and that he might give an account of this weakness, he considered it necessary to mention revelations. Ἄγγελος Σατᾶν , the messenger of Satan ) Paul, after having had some experience of the state of the blessed angels , begins now to discover an angel of a different description. The word Σατᾶν only occurs in the LXX. twice or thrice, and that too as indeclinable; but Σατανᾶς is declined in thirty-four places in the New Testament, and among these, nine times by Paul; and in this single passage it is used as an indeclinable noun, by a well-weighed apocope [the loss of a syllable at the end], certainly not without good reason. Ἄγγελος Σατᾶν then does not seem in this passage to be in apposition, as if it were said the angel Satan for the devil, for the devil is nowhere called an angel, but he himself has his angels. Therefore Satan is either a proper name in the genitive or an adjective in the nominative, so that there is denoted either an angel sent by Satan or a very destructive angel , an angel like Satan himself or the devil, as distinguished from the fact of his being sent by Satan. The ambiguity seems to intimate, that the apostle himself, with a view to his greater humiliation, must have been ignorant of what was the character of this angel. He had a revelation from heaven, a chastisement from hell. Job and Paul were harassed by an enemy: the angel of the Lord struck Herod. ἵνα με , that me ) Therefore Paul is not the angel himself (comp. however Num. as above quoted [wherein the Israelites are represented as making the inhabitants of the land whom they drive not out thorns in their sides]), but what is stated is, that the angel harassed Paul with blows: ἵνα , that is again elegantly placed in the middle of the clause, that the antithesis may twice precede the particle, twice follow it. For the excellence of the revelations and the angel of Satan are in antithesis, and likewise to be exalted and to be buffeted . κολαφίζῃ , buffet) With blows ( μεγάλαις ἁφαῖς ; for this is considered the original root, by Eustathius). Slaves were beaten, 1 Peter 2:20 , nor is there any obstacle to its being taken here in its proper acceptation, Job 2:6-7 . For if the apostles and the Lord Himself received blows and other troubles from men, ch. 2 Corinthians 11:24-25 ; 1 Corinthians 4:11 ; Matthew 26:67 , comp. 2 Corinthians 4:5 ; why should not Paul receive such from Satan or his angel, either visibly or invisibly. Such evils also befel Antony, as Athanasius mentions in his life. Opposition of every kind came in the way of the apostle, 2 Corinthians 12:10 , which he did not deprecate, but here he mentions something in particular, which harassed him with infirmities and met [counteracted] his exaltation with pain and disgrace, even more so or at least not less than the rage of lust, which has been excited in the members of the body (with which how wonderfully very holy souls may be tormented, may be learned by reading the writings of Ephraim Syrus, of Estius on this passage, of Joh. a Cruce and P. M. Petruccius), or the most violent headaches. Paul had become as it were of late afraid of the recurring attacks of these blows, inasmuch as he restrains himself in the time of boasting with such frequency as a reader in his natural state would despise and of which he would be weary. Chrysostom remarks, that Paul says κολαφίζῃ , that it may buffet , not κολαφίσῃ , that it might buffet , as concerning the present. The sight and hearing of Paul had been directed to the most magnificent objects: The touch [for the thorn was in the flesh ] had been most severely tormented.

Verse 8

2 Corinthians 12:8 . Τούτου , for this ) Demonstrative. He had forgotten his exaltation. τρὶς ) thrice , as the Lord Himself did on the Mount of Olives. Paul presented his three requests, I know not at what intervals. Then he patiently endured the thorn, when he saw, that it must be borne; he does not seem to have been without the thorn, even then when he wrote these things and so long as he was liable to exalt himself: comp. what follows. τὸν κυρίον , the Lord) Christ; see the next verse. Satan is not to be asked to spare us.

Verse 9

2 Corinthians 12:9 . Εἴρηκε μοι , He said to me ) when I prayed for the third time. ἀρκεῖ σοιχάρις μου , My grace is sufficient for thee ) A very gracious refusal, expressed in the indicative mood. The Lord as it were put these words into Paul’s mouth, that following them up he might say: O Lord, Thy grace is sufficient for me. There may be grace, even where there is the greatest sense of pain. ἡ γὰρ δύναμις ἐν ἀσθενείᾳ τελειοῦται , for [power] strength is perfected in weakness ) For δύναμις several have written δυναμίς μου , from the alliteration with χάρις μου . If Paul had written δυναμίς μου , I believe he would have subjoined ἐν ἀσθενείᾳ σου [83] ΣΟΥ . It is however here intimated, that, as is the grace of Christ , so is the power of Christ: γὰρ , for , here as often elsewhere, is a discriminative particle, by which a distinction is made between grace and strength . Grace is sufficient: do not ask sensible strength; for strength [is made perfect in weakness]. So in short the particle, for , obtains the meaning of causing, not immediately, but mediately by the distinction between grace and strength . ἐν ἀσθενείᾳ , in weakness ) From the fact of its being the language of the Lord, Paul often repeats this word; ch. 11 12 13 τελειοῦται , is perfected ) It [ ἡ δύναμις ] performs, it perfects all that belongs to it; therefore we ought not under the pretext of false self-sufficiency to cast away the power [strength] of Christ. ΜᾶΛΛΟΝ ΚΑΥΧΉΣΟΜΑΙ , I will rather glory ) in my infirmities, than in revelations, for if I glory in these, I shall prevent the exercise of the power of Christ. He adds the pronoun to the former, not to the latter. ἐπισκηνώσἐπʼ ἐμὲ , may cover me over ) as a tent. σκῆνος , a tent , the body [“our earthly house of this tabernacle,” ch. 2Co 5:1 ]. τὸ ἐπισκηνοῦν , covering over , something external; he does not say, that it may dwell in me; for he would thus [had he said that] diminish the sense of his infirmities. ἡ δύναμις τοῦ Χριστοῦ , the power of Christ ) that is Christ with His power . We ought most gladly to receive whatever promotes this object.

[83] This decision of the Gnomon, however, does not obscurely differ from the margin of both Ed. and from the Germ. Ver. Therefore it is not quite right to blame Bengel on this account that he wished μου to be omitted after δύναμις (as Ernesti has it, Bibl. th . T. 4. p. 705); nay, indeed, in this very passage , he would have had occasion to free Bengel from the blame of critical pertinacity. Any one may easily suspect from Bibl. th. 1. c. that Bengel wished to strike out the particle μᾶλλον after ἥδιστα , but they who use their eyes will find the contrary . E. B.

The σου is omitted in AD later corrected, G (and acc. to Lachm. but not Tischend. B) fg Vulg Iren. Cypr. But A and Orig. 3,200 d add μου , and so Rec. Text. ED.

Verse 10

2 Corinthians 12:10 . Εὐδοκῶ , I am well contented [Engl. V. too strongly, I take pleasure ]) He does not say here, I rejoice , which would denote more than he meant. ἐν ἀσθενείαις , in infirmities ) This is the genus; hence we have immediately after, I am weak; two pairs of species follow. ἐν ὕβρεσιν , ἐν ἀνάγκαις , in reproaches, in necessities ) which also the messenger of Satan occasions. ἐν διωγμοῖς , ἐν στενοχωρίαις , in persecutions, in distresses ) which were caused by men. ὑπὲρ , for the sake of ) construed with εὐδοκῶ , I am well contented . τότε ) then , in particular [then and then only]. δυνατὸς , strong) in the power of Christ.

Verse 11

2 Corinthians 12:11 . Γἑγονα , I am become ) He sounds a retreat. ὤφειλον , I ought ) An interchange of persons, i.e., you ought to have commended me [instead of my having to commend myself]. ὑφʼ ὑμῶν ) by you , among you. οὐδέν εἰμι , though I am nothing ) of myself.

Verse 12

2 Corinthians 12:12 . Μὲν , indeed [ truly ]) This particle is as it were a crumb that feeds modesty. σημεῖα , signs ) The proofs of the facts are at hand. τοῦ ἀποστόλου , of the apostle ) The article has this force; [the signs] of one who is an apostle . σημείοις ) So Al. Lat . (in Cod. Reutl.) Hilariu [84] . A reading standing midway between the extremes: [85] whence most copies have ἘΝ ΣΗΜΕΊΟΙς ; ΚΑῚ ΣΗΜΕΊΟΙς is the reading of Chrys. Boern. Lat . in the MSS.: σημείοις τε is the reading of Lin . also Syr . [86] On ΣΗΜΕΊΟΙς and ΤΈΡΑΣΙ , see Matthew 24:24 . ΔΥΝΆΜΕΙς are most palpable works of divine omnipotence .

[84] ilarius (a Latin father: died 368 A.D.) Ed. Maurinorum, Paris. 1693.

[85] ‘Media,’ so as to form a kind of common starting point from which the various other erroneous readings took their rise. ED.

[86] Σημείοις is read by AD corrected later f Vulg. Breads σημείοις τε . G g Syr. read καὶ σημείοις . Rec. Text reads ἐν σημείοις . ED.

Verse 13

2 Corinthians 12:13 . Τί , what ) This word refers both to the antecedents and the consequents. λοιπὰς , other churches ) planted either by me or by the other apostles. εἰ μὴ ταύτην , unless this ) a striking Asteismus [instance of refined pleasantry]. αὐτὸς , I myself ) The antithesis follows, nor by others , 2 Corinthians 12:16-17 . I did not burden you myself , nor make a gain of you by those others whom I sent, Titus, etc. ἀδικίαν , wrong ) The apostle might rightly [as opposed to ἀδικίαν ] have accepted his maintenance from the Corinthians, and when he did not avail himself of this right , he imputes it to himself, as a wrong; and he gives it this name, not in the way of irony, with which the language of the apostle is inconsistent, but in the way of amphibology, for he uses ἀδικίαν in this passage, in a very unusual sense, which may be expressed in Latin by non-jus , and it has a in the privative sense, as ἄνομος , ἀνόμως , are sometimes used [ without law; not contrary to law ], Rom 2:12 ; 1 Corinthians 9:21 : so ἀνυπότακτον [ not subjected , instead of insubordinate ], Hebrews 2:8 : and yet it admits at the same time the idea of injustice, deprecating thereby all suspicion of want of love to the Corinthians [in his not accepting maintenance from them]; forgive me , comp. 2 Corinthians 11:11 .

Verse 14

2 Corinthians 12:14 . Τὰ ὑμῶν , yours ) Philippians 4:17 . ὑμᾶς , you ) that I may gain you. Matthew 18:15 . He heaps up spiritual treasures for the souls of the Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 12:15 [ ὑπὲρ τῶν ψυχῶν ὑμῶν ].

Verse 15

2 Corinthians 12:15 . Ἐγὼ δὲ , but I ) The δὲ makes an Epitasis [emphatic addition to the enunciation already made]. δαπανήσω ) I will spend what belongs to me. ἐκδαπανηθήσομαι , I myself will be spent ) ἧττον , less ) Love rather descends, than ascends. [ It is unworthy to repay the most devoted love with a scanty measure of love . V. g.]

Verse 16

2 Corinthians 12:16 . Ἀλλʼ ὑπάρχων , but inasmuch as I was ) an objection which the Corinthians [ moved by suspicion , V. g.] might frame. [87] The answer is in the following verse. ἜΛΑΒΟΝ , I caught ) that you might not escape the net, that was set with a view to my gain.

[87] i.e. , You may object and say that though I did not burden you, I yet, as being crafty, caught you by guile. ED.

Verse 17

2 Corinthians 12:17 . Μή τινα ὧν διʼ αὐτοῦ ) for μὴ διά τινος τούτων , οὕς ἀπέσταλκα . [ The good faith of his associates wonderfully assisted Paul . V. g.]

Verse 18

2 Corinthians 12:18 . Παρεκάλεσα , I exhorted ) to go to you. τὸν ἀδελφὸν , the brother ) he seems to have been a Corinthian. πνεύματι , in spirit ) inwardly. ἴχνεσι , steps ) outwardly.

Verse 19

2 Corinthians 12:19 . Πάλιν δοκεῖτε ) Some read πάλαι δοκεῖτε : [88] a reading indeed, which would imply a more determined aversion of mind from Paul on the part of the Corinthians; comp. ch. 2 Corinthians 3:1 ; for πάλαι , with a verb in the present tense, denotes long-continued perseverance. Plato in Gorgias, ἀλλʼ ἔγωγε καὶ πάλαι λέγω , but as I said long before, so I still say . The more approved reading is πάλιν δοκεῖτε ; comp. again ch. 2 Corinthians 3:1 . ὑμῖν , to you ) as if it were necessary for our own sake in this way to retain your favour. ὑπὲρ τῆς ὑμῶν οἰκοδομῆς , for your edification ) that you may rather see, than experience with sorrow, how much I am an apostle.

[88] ABG f Vulg. read πάλαι . Only D ( Λ ) g of the oldest authorities support the πάλιν of the Rec. Text. ED.

Verse 20

2 Corinthians 12:20 . Οὐχ οἱους , you not such as I would) This is treated of to the end of the chapter. Then, the clause, such as ye would not , is treated of from ch. 2Co 13:1 and onwards. Such as is the hearer, so is the pastor to him. ἔρεις , ζῆλοι , θυμοὶ , ἐριθεῖαι ) Galatians 5:20 .

Verse 21

2 Corinthians 12:21 . Μὴ πάλιν , lest again ) There is here an Anaphora, [89] lest haply, lest haply, lest [ μὴ πως μή πως μή ]. And indeed in this verse he speaks with greater severity. ταπεινώσῃ , will humble ) A Metonymy [Substitution] of the consequent [for the antecedent]. ὁ Θεός μον , my God ) He by this expression gives the reason, why he considers acts committed against God, as appertaining to himself. τῶν προημαρτηκότων ) who have sinned before my last coming. ἀκαθαρσίᾳ ) the uncleanness; for example, of married persons: 1 Thessalonians 4:7 . πορνείᾳ , fornication ) among the unmarried, ἀσελγείᾳ , lasciviousness ) sins contrary to nature.

[89] See App. The frequent repetition of the same word in beginnings.

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Bibliographical Information
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 12". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.