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VI. HE MEETS CHARGE OF SELF-RECOMMENDATION BY POINTING TO WHAT HE HAD DONE AT CORINTH. THE DIVINE SOURCE OF HIS CONFIDENCE; EXCELLENCE OF THE NEW TESTAMENT MINISTRY AND ITS SUPERIORITY TO THAT OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
2 Corinthians 3:1-11
1Do we begin again to commend ourselves?1 or2 need we, as some others [om. others], 2epistles of commendation to you, or [om. letters of commendation3] from you? Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: 3forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be [being manifested that ye are] the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables [or tablets] of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart [on hearts which are tablets of 4flesh].4 And [But] such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: 5not that we are sufficient [om. of ourselves] to think anything [from, αφ̓ ourselves]5 as of [out of, εξ] ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God: 6who also hath made us able [sufficient as]6 ministers of the New Testament [Covenant]; not of the [a] letter, but of the [a]7 spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. 7But if the ministration of death, written and engraven [engraven in letters] in stones was glorious [in glory ἐν δόξῃ], so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away [is passing away, τὴν καταργουμένην];8 8How shall not [rather] the ministration of the spirit be [om. rather] glorious [in glory]? 9For if the ministration9 of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed [abound, περισσεύει ] in10 glory. 10For even that which was [has been] made glorious had [has been having, δεδόξασται] no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. 11For if that which was done 11[passing, τὸ καταργουμένον] away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious [abideth is in glory, τὸ μένον ἐν δόξῃ].
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
2 Corinthians 3:1-3. What the Apostle had said in 2 Corinthians 3:15-17 was liable to misinterpretation by ill disposed persons, on the ground that it was a boasting or a commendation of himself. He guards against this by reminding the Corinthians that he felt no necessity of recommending himself to them or to others, inasmuch as the work which Christ had accomplished by him in their city was a sufficient recommendation for him in every part of the world.—Do we begin to commend ourselves.—Ἀρχόμεθα is capable of an invidious meaning, such as might be insinuated by an opponent; do we presume etc. (comp. Luke 3:8). Πάλιν qualifies the infinitive, and refers to something which might be regarded as self-commendation either in his first Epistle (1 Corinthians 2-4, 1 Corinthians 7:25; 1 Corinthians 7:40; 1Co 9:14; 1 Corinthians 9:18;1 Corinthians 15:10), or in his earlier discourses or letters.—Or need we like some, epistles of recommendation to you, or from you?—The verb συνιστάνειν (τινί) signifies: to bring together, to introduce, to commend (Romans 16:1, and frequently in our Epistle). Self-commendation in the sense of praising one’s self, is mentioned with disapprobation also in 2 Corinthians 10:18. In the following sentence, if we accept of εὶ μὴ as the true reading, we must suppose that a decidedly negative and ironical answer was presupposed in it, or that the previous question goes on the presumption of an absurdity, [Jelf. Gram. § 860, 5. Obs. Webster Synt. and Synn. of N. T., chap. 8. p. 126.] q. d.: “unless it be that we need,” i.e. only under such a presumption could such an idea be entertained. This reading is not really more difficult than the strongly authenticated ἥ μή, although the latter is grammatically incorrect, inasmuch as nowhere else in the New Testament does μή occur in such a question after a ἤ, which must necessarily exclude all which precedes it. It makes very prominent the absurdity of the question: or do we not yet need? and it may be regarded as combining together the two constructions ἢ χρήζομεν and μή χρήζομεν [Without the ἐὶ μή, the previous question (which we might expect the Apostle to repel by a decided οὑδαμῶς), remains almost entirely without notice, and a new one is started which only inferentially negatives it. If ἐὶ μὴ is taken (as all usage requires it to be,) in the sense of nisi, (unless) the interrogative character of the sentence it introduces (according to our English version) ceases, and it notices the previous question in the only way it deserved notice, viz: ironically or even derisively. The sense would be: “I can need no commendation either from myself, for that would be introducing myself, or boasting where I am already well known; or from others to you, for none know me better than you; or from you to others, for your conversion and present state are better known as our work than anything you can say. Surely then the mere mention of such a thing is enough to show its absurdity.”] We often read of συστατικαὶ ἐπιστολαί in the church after the death of the Apostles. When members of the church travelled from place to place they were usually recommended from one bishop to another, and the letters thus given became a means of maintaining fraternal intercourse between the bishops and their congregations. [Paul himself appears to have recognized the commencement of such a custom. In Galatians 2:12, he speaks of some “who came from James,” as if even then some authority was expected from the Apostolic College at Jerusalem. Two years before, Apollos passing into this very city of Corinth, did bring “letters from the brethren” of Ephesus (Acts 18:27); and as many of the Corinthians professed to be followers of Apollos, it is no impossible thing that such were here aimed at. The 13th canon of the Council of Chalcedon (A. D. 451) ordained that “clergymen coming to a city where they were unknown, should not be allowed to officiate without letters commendatory (Epistolæ Commendariæ,) from their own bishop.” Comp. Neander, Chr. Rel. vol. I, pp. 205, 360 ff. In the Clementine Homilies Peter warns his hearers against “any apostle, prophet, or teacher, who does not first compare his preaching with James, and come with witnesses;” where Paul seems especially aimed at, and we have perhaps a specimen of what Paul was contending against in our epistle.] W. F. Besser: “ Were the Corinthians inclined to reckon their own Apostle among those strangers who needed such letters?” The absurdity implied in the question lay in the supposition that the Apostle [ἐαυτοὺς] who was well known not only at Corinth but everywhere, should need any commendation from others or from himself, as if he were a stranger. By the words ὤς τινες he evidently alludes to those antipauline teachers, who, as his readers well knew, had brought letters of recommendation to Corinth, and had taken such letters from Corinth when they departed. He thus not only shows that he needed no such letters, but he shows this in a way which throws confusion upon his opponents, while it honors and encourages the Corinthians themselves—our Epistle, i.e., the Epistle of commendation (gen. possess.; not: which we have written, for he speaks not of his own part in composing it until 2 Corinthians 3:3, but which we have) is yourselves.—By placing the predicate first he makes it more emphatic and connects it more immediately with the preceding verse. The close collocation of the emphatic ὑμεῖς with ἡμῶν is also very significant. A similar arrangement of words may be seen in 1 Corinthians 9:2. The large Church which had been founded by him, and which had become so rich in spiritual gifts, was a glorious work of the Holy Ghost, and so a Divine Epistle which would commend him to all the world without any letters from men. Besser: “it was an Epistle of a peculiar kind, for Paul was at the same time its writer and its receiver.”—This metaphor he carries out in the subsequent verses in accordance with the nature of his subject, noticing first the complete certainty which he and Timothy possessed (this is the reason that καρδίαις is in the plural as in 2 Corinthians 4:6; 2 Corinthians 7:3) for the commendation of their work, and then the general notoriety of this work in all the churches:—written in our hearts.—In these words his own feelings are alluded to, inasmuch as he speaks of the writing in his own (ἡμῶν) and not their (ἱμῶν) hearts (although ὑμῶν may be found in some authorities of no great importance, comp. Meyer).12 “Paul meant that he carried this Epistle, not in his hand to show at any time, but continually with him, inasmuch as he bore the Church upon his heart.” It is not of his love that the Apostle is here speaking (as in 2 Corinthians 7:3, and Philippians 1:7), and it would seem altogether inappropriate to make him allude here to the official breast-plate of the high priest (olshausen). On such an interpretation we could trace no connection between it and the following sentence, [in which the Epistle is said to be known and read, not by God, but by men]. The phrase: in our hearts, is equivalent to: in us, and the meaning of the whole expression is: So inscribed upon us and so carried about with us everywhere, that it becomes known to all. This idea is yet further defined and explained in the words:—known and read by all men:—it is a work which will be universally recognized, a letter which every one will know to be his, and which all will read as his [Grotius: the handwriting is first “known” and then the Epistle is “read”] (Ewald: read within and without, thoroughly). Events which had taken place in one of the principal cities of the world would necessarily have a world-wide notoriety (comp. Romans 1:8).—In this prominent relation to all the world we must not suppose that the Corinthians were themselves included, as if the πρὸς ὑμᾶς of 2 Corinthians 3:1 were here again referred to, for as the Epistle was made up of the Corinthians, they would not be likely to be included also among its readers.—Forasmuch as ye are manifested to be an Epistle of Christ, ministered by us, (2 Corinthians 3:3).—Grammatically the participle: manifested (φανερούμενοι), the object of which is to give a reason for their being known and read of all men, is to be connected with the nominative of the previous sentence (ὑμεῖς ἐστέ). χριστοῦ in ἐπιστολὴ χριστοῦ is the gen. of the author, and it is implied that the Epistle came from Christ, for it is of the origin and not of the contents nor of the proprietorship of the Epistle, that the Apostle is speaking. He now speaks of himself in the words: ministered by us, as Christ’s instrument in the composition of the Epistle; and he no longer thinks of it as a letter of commendation, but simply as an exhibition of the way in which their faith had been drawn forth and their Church had been founded. It had been prepared and sent by the Apostle and his companions, acting as the ministers and servants of Christ (comp. 1 Corinthians 3:5 ff.). Λιακονεῖν τι is here used as it is in 2 Corinthians 8:19. The difference between this and any ordinary Epistle was evident from the materials with which and on which it was written.—written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tablets of stone, but in fleshy tablets of the heart.—The Epistle itself, the new spiritual life they had experienced, had been produced by the Holy Spirit, whose continual agency is here pointed out. This agency wrought with great power, so as to renew their hearts, but through the instrumentality of the Apostles and their testimony respecting Christ. It seems inappropriate and altogether too dogmatic to find in the ink here spoken of the figure of those lifeless and impotent means which were sometimes made use of, such as the law and those doctrines which have no quickening power, or the shadows and ceremonies of the Jewish ritual. Some representation of the Jewish law and the Sinaitic legislation must, however, have been floating before the Apostle’s mind, when he brought out the additional figure of the tablets of stone. This representation is not strictly consistent with the metaphor of an Epistle and of ink, and we can explain it only by the recollection that the Apostle was contrasting the work of the Spirit under the New Testament with the work of the law under the Old Testament, i.e., the effecting of a Divine life in the heart by the Spirit of the living God, with the outward engraving of the Divine precepts upon tables of stone. There may also have been in his mind some recollection of such passages as Jeremiah 31:31-33 (comp. Hebrews 9:4). The phrase πλάκες καρδίας occurs in the Sept. of Proverbs 7:3. Fleshy (σάρκίναι.) in contrast with stony (λίθιναι), designates a living susceptibility (comp. Ezekiel 36:26). [The ending—ινος refers to the substance or material of which a thing is made, in distinction from—ικος which refers to that which belongs to that thing. Our Lord was σαρκινός (fleshy, of human flesh subsisting) but not σαρκικός (fleshly, subject to fleshly lusts and passions). The word is used only in this place according to the Receptus, but it is given for σαρκικός by many MSS. in Romans 7:14, and Hebrews 7:16. Trench, Synn., Series II., p. 114; Webster, Synn., p. 232, and Web. and Wilk. Com.]. The word hearts (καρδίας) expresses also more definitely the nature of the substance made use of. In speaking of their spiritual life, he could very significantly say: ye are an Epistle (a writing) inscribed upon heart-tablets. He does not exactly say: your hearts (καρδίας ὑμῶν) but generally καρδίας, and he thus describes the peculiar nature of the Epistles of Christ, i.e., they are Christ dwelling in the heart by faith (Ephesians 3:17).
2 Corinthians 3:4-6. In 2 Corinthians 3:2 f. Paul had expressed great confidence with respect to what had been accomplished at Corinth through his instrumentality, and he had claimed it as an evidence of his Apostolic power. In what he now says he recurs to his assertions there:—Such confidence, however, we have, through Christ towards God.—The same word, πεποίθησις, occurs in 2Co 1:5; 2 Corinthians 8:22; 2 Corinthians 10:2. Τοιαύτη is stronger than αὕτη would have been. The reference here may be to 2 Corinthians 2:17, or 2 Corinthians 2:15 ff.; at least so far as 2 Corinthians 3:1 ff. may be giving the reasons for what is there said of the Corinthian Church, but not so as to make 2 Corinthians 3:1-3 either a parenthesis or a digression.—He intended to say that he owed this strong and joyful confidence of which he was speaking (Neander: a confidence that we are able to work such results) entirely to Christ; for it was Christ whom he served and under whose influence he accomplished every thing he did; and it was therefore through Christ that he had such confidence in what he could do.—But he had this confidence, he says, towards God (πρὸς τὸν δεόν), i. e., not before God, as a matter which was right in God’s sight, but in the direction of, or in respect to God (Romans 4:2) the Author of the work and the One to whom all the results were due (Osiander, Meyer).—Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing of ourselves, as if from ourselves, (2 Corinthians 3:5). Here οὐχ ὅτι is used as in 2 Corinthians 1:24. If this sentence had been intended to be the object of πεποίθησιν, or to be simply a development, of the thought contained in πρὸς τὸν θεόν, the phrase ought to have been ὅτι οὐχ. Even if he gave God the honor of governing and guiding all the circumstances and accomplishing all the results of which he had spoken, he might still without impropriety have referred to his personal qualifications and have commended, and had confidence in, what he had done. On the other hand, he is on his guard here and he gives to God all the praise. He more particularly defines what this sufficiency orability is (ἱκανός occurs also in 2 Corinthians 2:16) by λογίσασθαί, (Lachmann: λογίζεσθαι) τι. ἀφ’. ἐαυτῶν, etc. Λογίζεσθαι signifies to consider, to reflect upon [with the notion of a result, to make out by reasoning], and refers here to that which proceeded from him and properly belonged to himself as an Apostle, in distinction from the results which depended upon the Divine blessing (1 Corinthians 3:6). It was the discernment of the best means and the best manner for the performance of his official duties, and a fixed purpose in the accomplishment of them (Meyer); or more comprehensively, the intellectual and moral qualification for his duties—the thoughts which were indispensable to the proper performance of his Apostolic work (Osiander). On no construction can we regard him as here ascribing this πεποίθησίς and his ἰκανότης for maintaining it to God, as if his object was to say that God was the source of this trust and of his confidence in his own qualifications [Rückert]. Nor should the assertion be limited to his work of instruction, for this is required as little by the context as is the doctrine which our older dogmatists were accustomed to derive from this passage, respecting the inability of the natural man generally to think any thing right or good.13 The άφ̓ ἐαυτῶν which makes their ability λογίσασθαί τι dependent upon themselves, is more clearly defined by ὡς ἐξ ἑαυτῶν, which designates the original source or efficient cause; as if our sufficiency had its origin in ourselves (Meyer). [Hodge: “There is a difference in the prepositions: ἅφ’ ἐαυτῶν ὡς ἑξ ἑαυτῶν: not from ourselves, as if out of ourselves. We should express much the same idea by saying, our sufficiency is not in or of ourselves”]. The ἀφ’ ἑαυτῶν belongs not exclusively to ἱκανοί ἐσμεν, nor to λογίσασθαι τι, but to both of them in conjunction. If we accept of the reading ἐξ αὐτων (with B. F. G. et. al.), we should translate: as those who are sufficient of themselves (ὡς ἱκανοὶ ὅντες etc.). The positive assertion contrasted with this is:—But our sufficiency is of God.—The word sufficiency here (ἱκανότης) refers to the same object with respect to which they were sufficient as ἱκανοί does. With this sentence must be connected the relative sentence—who also hath enabled (ἱκάνωσεν) us as ministers of a new covenant (2 Corinthians 3:6).—The object of καὶ is not to introduce a new, higher, or more general thought in contrast with λογίσασθαί τι, for then the expression would have been: ὅς καὶ διακόνονς—ἱκαν. ἡμᾶς, but to introduce a sentence to confirm and explain what had gone before: “who has even (or truly) made us sufficient,” etc. [Conybeare: comp. ἱκανός (2 Corinthians 2:16) ἱκανοί (2 Corinthians 3:15) and ἱκάνωσεν (2 Corinthians 3:6). Ad. Clarke: a formal answer to the question: Who is sufficient for these things? God (replies the Apostle) hath made us sufficient as ministers]. Διακόνους (ministers) is a concise expression for εἰς τὸ ἕιναι διακόνους, etc., (to be ministers), or εἰς διακονιαν (for the ministry, comp. ἱκανοῦν εἰς in Colossians 1:12).—The object of the ministry [i. e., κ. διαθηκης, the new covenant] is put in the genitive, as in 2 Corinthians 11:15; Ephesians 3:7; and Colossians 1:23, and is without the article because it is the genit. of quality. [The article is wanting also before γράμματος and πνεύματος] i. e., “of a new covenant.” It was new because it was altogether different from the old covenant which Moses founded. The basis of the former covenant was the law (νόμος), whereas the later, covenant was founded wholly on grace and reconciliation in Christ; the condition of salvation in the former was obedience to the law, whereas in the latter it was faith in Christ (Romans 10:5 ff.). [Neander: Διαθήκης is not to be explained here according to its pure Greek signification (arrangement, will), but in accordance with the Heb. בְרִית, which denotes a mutual transaction, an agreement (covenant) in which God promises something on condition that men fulfil what He requires of them]. This ministry of a new covenant is explained immediately by an antithetical sentence:—not of the letter, but of the Spirit.—As this expression is in explanation of and in apposition with the phrase, a new covenant, it must depend not upon διαθήκης (covenant) but upon διακόνονς (ministers). Comp. 2 Corinthians 3:7-8. We have here the same contrast as in Romans 2:29; Romans 7:6. The ministers of the Old Testament were busied principally with a letter, an inflexible, lifeless and written law; and they were bound to present and to inculcate with much zeal the duties of that covenant; whereas the ministers of the New Testament were concerned mainly with the Spirit. They had to do generally with a Divine power which wrought in the mind, renewed the heart and brought men into fellowship with God; and their work was to induce as many as possible to enter into this covenant and participate in its blessings. These two ministries gave a peculiar character respectively to the two covenants.—In the sentence—for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life—we have the reason for what had just been said, viz: God has made us sufficient for a ministry which is not of the letter but of the Spirit, for the letter kills, etc. (Flatt: what was written killed, but the Spiritual quickens into life). The connection must be sought by referring to the great aim of the Apostolic work, which was, as Paul’s readers well knew, to bring men into a holy fellowship by a Divine life (comp. Romans 1:16 f. et. al.). There is no need therefore of suggesting in addition that the ministry of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit, must be higher and far preferable, for, etc. The reason which the Apostle assigns is not that the ministry of a higher economy requires higher qualifications; nor, that under this higher economy the ministers must have a capacity for higher endowments (Osiander). Neander: “These words have been commonly applied to the contrasted literal or spiritual understanding of Christian truth. But Paul says nothing here directly on this subject. His words strictly refer merely to the law as a letter which gives commands, and the spirit of faith which makes alive. But probably this relation of the letter to the spirit may be applied to every precept of a merely ethical nature, with which Christianity, as the religion of the Spirit, is contrasted.” Light is thrown upon the whole passage by recollecting that the Apostle had in his eye those Judaizing teachers whose motives were derived from the law, and who vaunted themselves over Paul because he proclaimed nothing but grace. Such teachers were in danger of leading souls astray by pretending that their influence was salutary, while his was dangerous and corrupting. In opposition to such he gives the reason why God had qualified him and his fellow-laborers to be ministers of a new covenant which was not of the letter but of the Spirit. Exactly the opposite of what they pretended was found, in fact, to be true. The letter to which they devoted their energies killed, while the Spirit to whose service he was addicted made alive. This killing refers, not merely to a negative powerlessness or inability to awaken that life in the soul through which men freely perform works pleasing to God; nor merely to the introduction of a moral death, i. e., an opposition to the Divine will, produced by the sense of guilt which the commandment excites; nor even to a killing in a spiritual sense, because sin is the death of the soul; but to the sentence of condemnation and the exclusion from all hope of life and salvation which the law pronounces. Such is the idea of death (θάνατος) in Romans 6:21; Romans 6:23; Romans 7:5 et. al. This death is indeed occasioned by those moral influences (Romans 7:7 ff.), and is in other passages pointed out under the phrases: the curse of the law (Galatians 3:10), and, the law worketh wrath (Romans 4:15). This introduces also a death of the heart which paralyzes all moral power (Bengel, Osiander). The question, however, is, whether the Apostle has reference to this in our passage. He certainly had no thought of bodily (physical) death, as the wages of sin (Romans 5:12), and produced and demanded by the law (1 Corinthians 15:56; Romans 7:9), for such a death takes place also independently of the law (Romans 5:13); nor as a penalty of the law, for such a killing (ἀποκτέινειν) would not be a proper antithesis to the giving of life (ζωοποιεῖν). But the giving life or quickening is the effect of the eternal life (ζωὴ αἰώνιος) which is quickened in the soul (Romans 8:2; Romans 6:10-11), or of the introduction of the soul into that fellowship with God which is completed in the resurrection.14
2 Corinthians 3:7-11. The Apostle now proceeds (δὲ) to show that the ministry of the New Testament was far preferable to that of the Old, both in the effects which it produces and in the spirit which it reveals. For the sake of comparing them he brings them face to face with each other, and then from the glory of the Old Testament service which appeared with such splendor in Moses face, that the children of Israel could not look upon him (2 Corinthians 3:7), he draws a conclusion, a minori ad majus.—But if the ministration of death, engraven in letters upon stones, was in glory (2 Corinthians 3:7).—Instead of the simple designation the ministry of the letter, which he had used in 2 Corinthians 3:6, he now uses the phrase, the ministry of death—which works in favor of, or as it were, under the direction or authority of, death. He thus attributes the consequences of the letter directly to the ministry under it, and so anticipates the reason for the inferiority which is set forth in 2 Corinthians 3:9. The definition: engraven in letters upon stones, shows that we must not here think of the Levitical priestly service (Rückert); and the express mention of Moses leads us to understand the ministry of Moses himself. We are to regard him, not as a mediator in contrast with Christ, but as a minister (διάκονος) representing all teachers under the law in contrast with the Apostles and ministers of the New Testament. By a bold turn of expression he combines the ministry itself with its object, and designates the whole as one which was engraven in letters upon stones (the only point on which we can here agree with Meyer, who regards the Decalogue as Moses’ commission or matricula officii).15 The ministration of Moses and of all his successors consisted in the presentation and enforcement of the law whose letters had been engraven upon stone (tablets). In this way he brings out in strong language the stiffness and externality of the ancient service. Neander: “The article before γράμμασιν was designedly left out by the Apostle, because he intended to imply that a ministration which was conveyed only by letters must have been of a very general nature.” If ἐν γράμμασιν (or γράμματι) were connected directly with τοῦ θανάτου, as Luther and some others contend the words should be [the ministration of death in letters, or the ministration which produces death by means of letters], the article would have been required (τοῦ ἐν γράμ). The predicate ἐγενήθη ἐν δόξῃ, is essentially the same as if it had been ἐγεν. ἔνδόξος. But we are here evidently directed to the divine glory (בָּבוֹד) within whose radiance the ministration was performed. Of an essential dignity or eminence the Apostle was not in general speaking, for in the next sentence:—so that the children of Israel could not keep their eyes fixed on Moses’ face (2 Corinthians 3:7), there is no representation of the consequences or of the visible tokens of the glory, but of the remarkable degree in which this ministration participated in the divine radiance. In 2 Corinthians 3:8 also (ἕσται ἐν δόξῃ) it is the heavenly glory which is spoken of. [Webster and Wilkinson think that the ἐσται refers to the future, not from the time of writing merely, but to a future from past time, or rather a future of inference, as, if that were so, what will this be:] Then, amid the glories of the great day of revelation, when the kingdom of God shall be perfected, and when all external form shall correspond with essential excellence, the dignity of the New Testament ministration will be especially manifested. The narrative in Exodus 34:29 ff. is rather freely quoted, inasmuch as we are there merely informed that when Aaron and the children of Israel saw that the skin of Moses’ face shone they were afraid to come near him. But everything essential to Paul’s, and even to Philo’s account, is there. For even the ἀτενίσαι, the fixed gaze upon his face, was too much for them. The reason for this is further given when it is added—for the glory of his countenance—but with the important addition—which was to be done away.—This addition gives us a new point in the comparison, and places the inferiority of the legal ministration in a strong light (comp. 2 Corinthians 3:11; 2 Corinthians 3:13). Neander: “In this Paul discovers a symbol of the fading glory of Judaism.” But he has not yet commenced speaking of the discontinuance of the ministration and its glory, but only of that fact in which he saw a hint of this. He there makes use of no purely present participle (Luther: that which nevertheless is ceasing), but, in accordance with the history, an imperfect participle signifying—that which was passing away. The Apostle presumes that this radiance was transitory; and with great justice, since it always became visible when Moses came from the Divine presence [Estius: passing away when the occasion was over]. The inference from this is briefly and simply expressed in 2 Corinthians 3:8—how shall not the ministration of the Spirit be yet more glorious?—In τοῦ πνεύματος the Apostle resumes the subject of the ministration of the Spirit in 2 Corinthians 3:6, which had been interrupted by the enlargement in 2 Corinthians 3:7 with respect to the letter: engraved in letters upon stones. But the idea is not that the Spirit rests upon this ministration (though this is silently presumed), but that the ministration was the medium through which the Spirit, and the life he bestowed were communicated and enjoyed (in opposition to τοῦ θανάτου, comp. 2 Corinthians 7:6). [The verbs γίνομαι and εἰμί are here brought into striking contrast; ἐγενήθη ἐν δόξῃ–ἕσται ἐν δόξῃ. Bengel: γίνομαι, fio, et εἰμί sum, are quite different. Stanley: ἐγενήθη, came into existence. Ellicott (on 1 Timothy 2:14): “the construction γίνεσθαι ἐν occurs occasionally, but not frequently in the New Testament, to denote the entrance into, and existence in, any given state.” Webster: “ἐγενήθη ἐν δόξῃ=was made to be in glory for a time; ἕσται ἐν δοξῃ=shall be in glory permanently” (Synn. sub. γίν.)]. As ἕσται leads the mind to the future (comp. “this hope” in v. 22), we-must not refer the glory (δόξα) to the miraculous endowments and works of the Apostles. ̓́Εσται, however, need not be regarded as the fut. consequentiæ, or as equivalent to esse invenietur (si rem recte perpenderis), and we are hardly safe in understanding it of a progressive development. In the Apostle’s mind the second advent of Christ (Parousia) was so constantly present, that it would seem to him needless to give a more particular explanation of his language. The kind of ministration of the spirit, which he had in view, and the argument from the less to the greater, which he applies to it, will be accounted for or confirmed when he comes to explain more particularly the two ministrations, the first, as a ministration of condemnation, and the other as a ministration of righteousness.—For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more does the ministration of righteousness abound in glory (2 Corinthians 3:9).—[If Lachmann’s reading (τῇ διακονίᾳ) be adopted, the translation would be, ‘if to the ministration of condemnation be glory,’ etc., but the sense would not be essentially altered]. Here the former corresponds to the killing and the death, and the latter to the making alive, of 2 Corinthians 3:6-7. The condemnation refers to the curse of the law. The ministration which was employed in the enforcement of the letter, i. e. the Old Testament law, was compelled to denounce condemnation against transgressors (comp. Deuteronomy 27:26), and by its enforcement of a law which brought the sinful passions into active opposition to its requirements, it brought men under the curse. The righteousness, which is here contrasted with the condemnation, is the same as the being just (or righteous) before God, and is the great object of the proclamation of Divine grace under the New Testament ministration. Under that ministration, faith is awakened, and man’s relations to God are rectified, so that he can be justified, and attain everlasting life in the Divine kingdom (comp. Romans 1:17; Romans 3:22 ff, Romans 3:22; Romans 3:30 et al.) The Apostle, however, partially modifies what he had thus said of these two ministrations, by withdrawing all reference to time in the use of ἐγενήθη and ἕσται. Instead of ἐν δόξῃ we have the nominative δόξν, with έστίν understood. The meaning is the same, and the expression is more forcible than the adjective ἕνδοξος would have been (comp. Romans 8:10; τὸ πνεῦμα ζωή). On the other hand the expression is strengthened by the use of περισσεύει, signifying: overflows or abounds in glory.—For even that which, has been glorious, is not glorious in this respect, on account of the glory which excels (2 Corinthians 3:10).—Here the previous idea is further strengthened by saying that the glory of the contrasted ministration was abolished, although that ministration had previously been declared to have been made in glory (γενηθῆναι ἐν δόξῃ), or to have been glory (δόξα, 2 Corinthians 3:7; 2 Corinthians 3:9), on account of the superabundant glory of the other. The καί (even) indicates a climax and qualifies the verb: is not glorious, or has no glory (ού δεδόξασται), which expresses a single idea (that which is deprived of glory), and goes beyond the minus of the comparison. A more particular explanation of the idea is given in ἐν τούτῳ τῷ μέρει, which signifies: in this particular, i. e. with respect to the relation which the Old Testament ministration bore to that of the New Testament.—The phrase, that which has been glorious (τὸ δεδοξασμένον), [“shows a strange use of the perfect (as does δεδόξασται), and is taken from Exodus 34:29; Exodus 34:35 of the Sept.” Stanley]. It does not stand here for the whole Old Testament economy, but simply the Mosaic ministration, or that which was surrounded by, or shared in a Divine radiance.—Having said that this was not glorious in this respect, the Apostle adds the reason for that deprivation, by saying that this was on account of the surpassing glory. He here refers to what he had said of the ministration of righteousness abounding in glory (περισσεύει ἐν δόξῃ). Before the superabundant glory of the ministration of the New Testament, the glory of the Old Testament ministration entirely disappears as the moon’s splendor vanishes in the sun’s radiance. There is, therefore, no necessity of taking the phrase, that which has been glorious, in a general and abstract sense (Meyer), without an allusion to the Mosaic service in the concrete sense, until it comes up in the predicate, where ἐν τούτῳͅ τῷ μέρει has the sense of: “in this respect (i. e. when we compare the glory of the Mosaic ministration with the Christian, 2 Corinthians 3:9) the glorified becomes unglorified.” In 2 Corinthians 3:11 the expression, the surpassing glory (τῆς ὑπερβαλλούσης δόξης) is still further justified by the introduction of a new element into the comparison, although it had been symbolically suggested in 2 Corinthians 3:7.—For if that which is transitory was with (passing through) glory, much more that which abides is in glory.—This new element is the permanent in distinction from the temporary, that which is vanishing: “on account of the super-abounding glory.” For each ministration there is presupposed an economy or dispensation, one of which is passing away, and the other is abiding. The Old Testament ministration with the law itself, is supposed to pass away with the entrance of the New Testament ministration (comp. Romans 10:4). The latter must remain until the second coming of our Lord, when it will be eternally, glorified in His heavenly kingdom. [Neander: The Apostle probably had a special design when he used the different prepositions διὰ (δὸξης) and ἐν (δόξῃ). Διὰ. designates a point of transition and hence implies that the thing spoken of, was passing and transitory, while ἐν implies that which is permanent.] Διὰ δόξης signifies strictly that the glory merely accompanied the object [Winer § 51, i. p. 306. Webster (Synn. p. 166) says that it indicates particularly an object in a state of transition, while passing through a state] whereas ἐν δόξῃ implies that the object continued in glory. Sometimes, however, even διὰ is used to designate the fixed condition or state of a thing (2 Corinthians 2:4; 2 Corinthians 5:7), and hence it is possible that Paul used both expressions as nearly equivalent, for we know that he not unfrequently changed his prepositions even when he referred to the same relation. In either case διὰseems appropriate to the καταργούμενον, and ἐν to the μένον. In the translation, the distinction can with difficulty be made perceptible (comp. Osiander).
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
When nothing but Christ, and Christ in his completeness, is preached, and when the preachers know by experience the reality of what they preach, all who have learned the deadly condemnation and inefficiency of the law to save the soul will feel the power of truth, will be rescued, forgiven and renewed by Divine grace, and will become animated by a spiritual life which will know no limit but the perfection of God. Such results will need no proof that they are from God, for all who have eyes to see will not only commend the human laborer but give honor to the God who bestowed both the success and the power to labor. Those legal task-masters who exalt themselves so much above the preachers of free grace, will never disturb the common security nor bring anything to real order; and in due time, even in this world, it will not be hard to distinguish between the preaching which saves and that which destroys the soul. But a day is coming when all things shall be made especially manifest, when those who have turned many to righteousness shall present before the Lord a great company of enlightened, justified and sanctified ones, who shall shine as the stars forever and ever; while those who preached nothing but the law shall (Daniel 12:3) be filled with unspeakable horror and confusion, as the lamentable and fatal consequences of their course shall be fully brought to light.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
2 Corinthians 3:1. No one needs a better letter of credence than that testimony of men’s own consciences and works which are sufficient to praise him.
2 Corinthians 3:2-3. Every believer is an epistle in which the Holy Ghost reveals the knowledge of God in Christ; he is an open epistle in which all can learn something of what God can produce in the heart; and he is an epistle of Christ, for the hands and tongues of all true teachers are the instruments which the Holy Spirit uses to form him into the Divine image. If God’s writing is in the heart, the willing heart, the faithful obedience and the ready tongue will not fail to discourse of God. In such cases there will be real life, and not mere letters upon stone. Preachers should never doubt, that when they perform their parts, the appropriate fruits of their labor will infallibly follow.
2 Corinthians 3:5. No one can speak of God as he should, until he has been taught of God (John 6:45). Whatever gifts we have, and whatever praise we gain, should therefore be ascribed entirely to God (James 1:17). Oh how many make idols of themselves.
2 Corinthians 3:6. Luther:—The letter is to teach us, that while the mere law of God and our own works give us knowledge, they cannot show us that God can be gracious; but it shows us that everything we are and do is condemned and worthy of death, since without Divine grace we can do nothing. The Spirit, on the other hand, is to teach us that grace without law or personal righteousness gives us knowledge, but in such a way as to give us life and salvation. Hedinger:—The Gospel is accompanied by a penetrating life, which enlightens and gladdens those who are awakened and condemned to death; it is therefore from the Spirit and is the source of spirit and life. Every word of God, as it comes from the Divine heart and hand, has some special design and a power of its own. In some cases it is to command and in others to produce obedience; in some it is to threaten and in others it is to comfort; in some it is to chastise and wound, and in others it is to heal and revive. To every work which His wisdom has ordained He has also adjusted just that measure of power which is precisely adapted to the end he has in view. The word which created the world is not the word which creates a new heart. For this is needed a word of far greater power (Ephesians 1:19).
2 Corinthians 3:7. Hedinger:—The law also has power and light. It has a terrible thunderbolt for those who have awakened consciences, and where Christ does not comfort them and anoint them with His Spirit, they are struck down to the mouth of hell. Those who would partake of the Divine nature must mount up in spirit often to God, become familiar with Divine things, converse much with God in prayer, and listen in their most secret souls to God’s voice in His word, and it will not be long before their souls will be full of Divine light.
2 Corinthians 3:8. The Gospel is indeed a quickening and a saving power, by means of which Christ is glorified, and rises like a clear morning star (2 Peter 1:19) to shed upon His people’s hearts the full beams of His eternal glory (Revelation 21:23 ff.).
2 Corinthians 3:9. Hedinger:—When the word of the kingdom casts its clear light upon thee, look steadily upon it. Many love darkness and shun the light (John 3:19). Walk in the light lest darkness come upon thee (John 12:35).
2 Corinthians 3:10. The Gospel is the source of an indescribable glory when it is truly applied to the hearts of God’s people, for the glory of the Lord is even now shed forth upon them; but when Jesus, who is their life, shall be fully revealed, their glory will be complete (Colossians 3:4).
2 Corinthians 3:11. The spirit of life is better than death, righteousness than condemnation, and that which is permanent than that which vanishes away; how much better then is the ministration of the New Covenant than that of the letter?
Berlenb. Bible, 2 Corinthians 3:2 :—Real candor and frankness of manner can spring only from a consciousness of innocence. A preacher’s success must be estimated not from the multitudes who attend upon his ministry, but from the sound conversions which take place under it. Many may, and certainly will condemn him; but this is no evidence that he is wrong. Let us only be concerned that we are begotten by the Word of truth to the glory of God, and that men may say of us: The Lord hath created and formed them for himself.
2 Corinthians 3:3. The minister who fails to point men from himself to Christ, is trying to make himself a pope. We should never stop at what is external, but press forward to the inward spirit of everything. Let men see that those hearts of ours which were once of stone, are now fleshly tablets, and that this is the Lord’s work. The heart which takes no impression from the Gospel, has no part in the New Covenant.
2 Corinthians 3:4. True confidence in God, is not of ourselves, but comes through Christ.
2 Corinthians 3:5. The spiritual man finds that a union with Christ gives him an invincible power, in proportion as he sees that he is not sufficient of himself to do anything, as of himself, i. e., to know and overcome the subtle assaults of spiritual pride and self-will. Few persons possess this power, because they never thoroughly know themselves, or understand how utterly insufficient they are even to think anything which will convince them of God’s grace and truth. This is wholly a spiritual and divine work, and can be accomplished only by divine instruments. When this fact is fully recognized, we can no longer endure in ourselves those contrivances and counterfeits which the ingenuity of man has devised; for every degree of credit we take to ourselves, only hinders the growth of grace in our hearts. Whatever benefits the renewed man attains, is in consequence of his new creation, and never will he hesitate to cast the crown at the feet of God and of the Lamb. And yet this subjugation of the vile spirit of self-love, self-sufficiency, self-flattery, etc., requires the severest struggle to which our natures are ever called. If Christians in general need to be divested of all confidence in themselves, surely those who lead them should seek to be especially free from it.
2 Corinthians 3:6. The letter which supplies nothing but intellectual knowledge, can impart no life—but inasmuch as it reveals only condemnation and death, it must actually kill the soul. The law can never be anything but a dead work to those who regard it in a Pharisaic spirit, and set it in opposition to the Gospel. Hence the great object of the Gospel (and the law itself, when properly used, shuts us up to the same result Galatians 3:24), is to reveal to men a Redeemer, in whom they may find life. The spirit of the Gospel of grace, of faith and of the Lord, gives us life, opens to us a way of righteousness and reconciliation in Christ, and makes us able to receive and use the benefits of Christ’s kingdom. This living voice of the Lord stirs the sinner’s heart, so that he must hear and obey. Those who have been slain by the law, will penitently recognize Christ, and the Holy Spirit will glorify the Father and the Son in their hearts, and make intercession there with groanings which cannot be uttered. The law alone produced disobedience, opposition, and consequently wrath; but, the Spirit works nothing but a cheerful obedience, life and love, blessings and blessedness. The more Christ requires of us, the more he does for us. Under his influence we become conscious of new movements and new motives; our whole nature is renewed, and we take delight in those divine, pure and innocent enjoyments, which we never had, and could not have before. Then we shall gradually attain an incomparable treasure of divine life in a refined and good heart, from which we can derive light and power, victory over all sin, motives to diligence in every duty, and comfort and strength for every extremity. In a word, we have the whole power of the Holy Ghost, to make us partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4).
2 Corinthians 3:7. Not unfrequently, rather than stand on the ground of the Gospel, men prefer going out of their way to Moses—the glory of whose face at a distance attracts them; but they soon find that that glory is too strong for them, and shows those who love darkness rather than light, as in a glass, how great is their corruption. Thus God sometimes finds a way to accomplish his own work. The old dispensation of the letter must always be forsaken, that we may attain a true evangelical state in the new dispensation of the Spirit. This requires an honest recognition and confession of the truth, and a sincere repentance.
2 Corinthians 3:8. Such is the glory of the spiritual word, that even the angels love to study it. Where once it enters the heart, it remains forever. The glory of the Lord so brightly illuminates it, that everything which speaks and acts without the Spirit will seem like utter darkness. Under such a dispensation everything begun or promised before, comes to its fulfilment; there is no abolition of the law and its various ordinances, but only an exaltation of them all into something spiritual and everlasting. And yet it often costs us much before our consciences apprehend the true distinction between the law and the Gospel, and the main power of the new covenant in the heart depends upon the clearness with which the promises are understood.
2 Corinthians 3:9. So sublime and excellent is the glory of Christ in the new covenant, that no sooner does any man apprehend it, than he will feel humbled in utter amazement, as he beholds the majesty, the holiness, the wisdom, and the goodness of God; and thus God receives back from restored and redeemed man the honor of which sin robbed Him.
2 Corinthians 3:10. From the nature and origin of the Mosaic law, it would not be hard to infer that it would necessarily come to an end. Equally evident is it, that the Gospel contains what must endure forever; and all the assaults of its enemieshaveonly served to evince its perpetuity. It is therefore called an everlasting Gospel, and the redemption it proclaims is an eternal redemption. As what is good may not be permanent, we should not be satisfied until we have found what can never be moved. As everything else is passing away, the soul can never find complete rest until it receives that word which lives and abides forever.
Rieger, 2 Corinthians 3:1-2 :—Gladly would we so speak and act that no one should take offence, but no one can always be so circumspect as to be beyond suspicion. It is well, therefore, sometimes to meet those misunderstandings which we know have arisen respecting us. “The first in his cause is righteous, but his neighbor cometh and searcheth him” (Proverbs 18:17).
2 Corinthians 3:3. What God has joined together, should never be put asunder. Among these are: preaching and the word of Christ; the Spirit which glorified that word, and the ministry through which that Spirit is shed forth. Stone tablets are comparatively easy to be written upon, for only the surface needs to be changed. But only the finger of God can write His law upon the heart, since the soul itself must be softened and subdued, not only at first, but continually. We need not therefore be surprised that the dispensation under which God has promised to do this is the highest, and that every thing which preceded it was only preparatory for it (Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:25-27).
2 Corinthians 3:4-5. When a man really holds communion with God, he will be so emptied of all confidence in himself and so united to the source of all light and power, that even when he is triumphing in a Divine sufficiency, no words can express his consciousness of utter insufficiency in himself.
2 Corinthians 3:6. Even in connection with the law and other clearer declarations of God’s will and of His claims, many promises of the Spirit were given through the prophets, so that the New Covenant was already partially developed in the Old. All who made a conscientious use of the letter of the Old Covenant found in it abundant directions to the Spirit, and through the Spirit breathed forth many sighs for the New Covenant. And yet the Spirit was not in it, for before our Lord’s return to the Father that Spirit was not fully given, and the ministration of the Old Covenant was necessarily a ministration of the letter. Such a fact, however, is no reason for despising that dispensation, but rather a ground for praising that grace which reaches its perfection by successive periods of progress.—To slay the sinner who is living without the law in a worldly course of life, is really to prepare him for life and health. Unless the process stops there, he will be brought to a state in which he is willing to renounce the law and his own righteousness, and he will seek for that Gospel through which the Spirit is imparted.
2 Corinthians 3:7-8. The more any institution or worship gives evidence that it came from God and leads to God, and the more the Lord uses it to reveal and communicate Himself to men, the more it can be called glorious. Hence that ministry which was set up at Pentecost, proclaiming peace through the blood of the cross, and imparting the Spirit, which is the only source of spiritual freedom and power, is possessed of a transcendant glory; for it has most plainly evinced its Divine origin, and its power to control the heart and bring the soul to God.
2 Corinthians 3:9. It was a terrible thing to preach nothing but condemnation; and yet under the law such preaching was glorious. May we learn to make a right use of the law; not to show us the way of salvation, but to drive us through the door of mercy which the Gospel opens for us to the righteousness in which there can be no condemnation, but peace with God, the law established, and the Spirit of life dwelling continually in the heart!
2 Corinthians 3:10-11. The law was originally designed to be only a provisional dispensation to prepare a way for the Gospel. Its fragmentary revelations of truth must unquestionably find their completion and their termination in the Gospel; and yet the law itself can never lose its place in every subsequent dispensation, and it will find its absolute perfection when God shall reveal Himself to His creatures without a veil.
Heubner, 2 Corinthians 3:1; 2 Corinthians 3:3 :—However disagreeable it may be to a Christian to commend himself, if his personal interests are connected with God’s cause, he may without vanity vindicate his character before his fellow-men. When his merits are manifest, he may dispense with letters of commendation, and certainly he will never truckle or beg for them by low arts. To be really useful, especially in the work of saving souls, will be our best commendation and will generally be the best known; for what work can be more honorable than that of transforming and impressing a new character upon the very spirit of a fellow-man?
2 Corinthians 3:4. God will be the friend of all who are endeavoring to honor Christ. All such therefore have the best of reasons for confidence in God.
2 Corinthians 3:5. Our sufficiency for every spiritual act is from God; for when He withdraws His Spirit from our hearts, they are lifeless, barren, and incapable of any good thought.
2 Corinthians 3:6. Even among Christians (papists, coldly orthodox), the letter is served with slavish fear, where God’s will is known only from the written word without the Spirit’s testimony. In such cases nothing but precepts and threatenings are dispensed, and the written word is believed and obeyed from a regard only to authority and from terror without inward conviction and persuasion. In contrast with this stands the ministration of the Spirit; under which the will of God and His grace is cordially accepted; an inward witness accompanies the word, and under the leadings of the Divine Spirit, faith and obedience are delightful, sincere and earnest.
2 Corinthians 3:7. That which is external and legal has frequently more influence upon rude dispositions than that which has more intrinsic grandeur.
2 Corinthians 3:8-9. A judicial and admonitory severity has a dignity which is by no means to be despised, but unspeakably greater is that of a love which has compassion on the miserable and seeks to save them and give them spiritual life. No honor, therefore, is like that of the minister of the Gospel, under whose labors God’s Spirit is communicated, and righteousness, pardon and grace are afforded to all men. Contrast between Deuteronomy 27:15 ff; Deuteronomy 28:15 if.; and Matthew 5:3 ff. (Cursed, etc. Blessed, etc.).
2 Corinthians 3:11. If, then, God’s glory is reflected from all who proclaim His love, how glorious must be that ministration which proclaims nothing but love.
W. F. Besser, 2 Corinthians 3:3 :—As the savor of Christ diffuses Christ Himself, so a congregation of real Christians are an Epistle in which Christ is Himself inscribed and communicated to men. The letters which He writes are deeds and men (Psalms 45:1, “My tongue is the pen of a ready writer”).
2 Corinthians 3:6. The whole ministration (διακονία) to which the public servants of the Church are regularly called, is simply for the purpose of presenting and applying the New Covenant or the treasures of grace which are promised through Jesus Christ to men.—Our sufficiency is not conferred by the office, but must be brought to the office itself. Those whom God calls to it are able to teach others, or are endowed with a sufficiency when they are called (2 Timothy 2:2).—The letter kills, and even ought to kill, that the Spirit may quicken those who are dead.
2 Corinthians 3:9. The glory of the ministry of the letter was terrible, because every letter of the law was emblazoned with tokens of Divine wrath (Romans 4:15). As the executioner of God’s curse against transgressors (Galatians 3:10), it can proclaim nothing but condemnation. But now, when grace abounds and is much stronger than wrath, the ministration of the Spirit is proportionably more glorious; for now even righteousness proclaims that God must absolve the guilty when they are reconciled to God through the blood of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).
2 Corinthians 3:10. The glory of the legal ministry was by itself intolerable for its brightness; but when the ministration of condemnation and the ministration of righteousness are combined together, that which was so glorious becomes unglorified, and Sinai’s radiance vanishes before that of Golgotha.
2 Corinthians 3:11. The ministry which vanished away passed “through glory,” and its glory was extinguished when the law had accomplished its end in Christ and His people; but the ministry which remains until the coming of the Lord abides in glory, that the whole world may behold its inherent excellence.
2 Corinthians 3:4-11. Lesson for the 12th Sunday after Trinity. Heubner:—I. The glory of the evangelical ministry: 1. In its origin: a. It rests upon Christ’s own institution (2 Corinthians 3:4); b. Christ alone can qualify us for it; 2. In its object: it is not of the letter, but of the Spirit; 3. In its means: it relies upon, not an external glory, which for a while blinds the eye and then vanishes away (2 Corinthians 3:7), but the coöperation of the Holy Ghost (2 Corinthians 3:8-9); 4. In its reward: a. even in this world it has more glorious rewards than any other employment (2 Corinthians 3:10); b. but finally it conducts to eternal blessedness. II. The superior glory of the Church under the New Testament above that of the Church under the Old Testament: 1. It was founded by the Son, and not merely by the servant of God; 2. It is the ascendancy of the Spirit, and not of the letter; 3. Its worship and dignities are of a spiritual nature, and are sustained not merely by worldly influences; 4. It will continue forever.—Oettinger:—The glory of spiritual instruction and the weakness of that teaching which has reference merely to morality, the law and the outward letter (Serm. on the Epist. for the 12th Sunday after Trinity).—A. F. Schmidt:—We should never separate by arbitrary and nice distinctions what God has wisely and graciously arranged together; especially: a. letter and Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:6); b. the preaching of the law and of the gospel (2 Corinthians 3:3); c. confidence in God and despair of ourselves (2 Corinthians 3:4-5); d. fidelity to our calling and an assurance of success.
[2 Corinthians 3:1.—Two important MSS. (B. and D.) et al. have συνιστάν which is accepted by Lachman: but συνιστάνειν is better authenticated, and is now almost universally received.]
2 Corinthians 3:2; 2 Corinthians 3:2.—Rec. has εἰ υή according to A. B. et al. and it is preferred by Reiche, Meyer, Osiander, [Bloomfield and Wordsworth. Our author is wrong in inferring (e silentio) that the Vat. favors the Rec. Its authority (as revised,) is with C. D. E. F. G. and Sin. et al., the Ital. Syr. Vulg. (aut numquid) and Arab. Verss. Theodt. and the Lat. fathers, decidedly in favor of ἥ μη, which is adopted by Alford, Stanley and Tischendorf (7th ed.) The interrogative ἤ would seem to a transcriber more natural after a question and easier of explanation than the conditional εἰ. It is remarkable that all our Eng. verss. (Bagster’s Hexapla,) though following the Rec., translate the passage as if the text were ἢ μἡ. Wycliffe has: “or whether we need;” Tyndale, Cranmer, Geneva and Amer. Bib. Union, have; “or need we as some,” and the Rheims has: “or do we need” etc.]
2 Corinthians 3:1; 2 Corinthians 3:1.—The second συστατικῶν is probably an explanatory gloss, to which some MSS. [F. and G.] add still further ἐπιστολῶν. [Tisch. retains συςτατικῶν, but most critics reject both words.]
2 Corinthians 3:3; 2 Corinthians 3:3.—Καρδίαις has strong manuscript authority in its favor, but it was probably a mistake of some transcriber. [The MSS. evidence may well be called strong, for A. B. Sin. C. D. E. G. L. have καρδίαις. Meyer calls it an error of the pen, and Bloomfield a critical correction, but Alford thinks the internal as well as the external evidence is too strong in its favor to be rejected, as it is the harsher word and the more difficult of construction.]
2 Corinthians 3:5; 2 Corinthians 3:5.—The position of ἀφ ̓ ἑαυτῶν after λογίσασθαί τι is sustained by the best authorities. Rec. puts the words after ἔσμέν, but B. C. [and Sin.] place them before ἱκανοί. [Tisch. agrees with our author, but he has changed ἑαυτῶν after ὡς ἑξ into αὐτῶν on the authority of only B. F. G. et. al.]
[6 2 Corinthians 3:6.—Rec. has ἀποκτεἰνει with B. et. al. and Orig. Tisch. and Alford have ἁποκτέννει with F. G. K., and Sin. Lachmann from conjecture gives us ἀποκταίνει, and he is followed by Stanley; but A. C. D. E. L. have ἀποκτένει. Meyer, Bloomf. and Words, follow the Rec.]
2 Corinthians 3:7; 2 Corinthians 3:7.—Lachm. on the authority of B. D. (first cor.) F. G. has γράμματι, but the reading was probably occasioned by the sing, γράμμα of 2 Corinthians 3:6. [Alford and Stanley adopt it, but Tisch. on the decisive authority of Α. C. D. (2d and 3d Corr. ) E. K. L. and Sin., with nearly all the Ital. Vul. Syr. verss. and Greek and Latin fathers, agrees with the Rec. and most continental critics in giving us γράμμασιν.]
2 Corinthians 3:7; 2 Corinthians 3:7.—Ἓν before λίθοις is not genuine; the best authorities are against it.
2 Corinthians 3:9; 2 Corinthians 3:9.—Lachmann on important authorities [A. C. D. (1st Cor.) F. G. Sin. with some Greek fathers and verss.] has τῆ διακονίᾳ, but this reading was probably an attempt to remove a difficulty, and to explain the text. For a similar reason others have ἐν δόξῃ ε͂στιν or ἦν instead of δόξα.
2 Corinthians 3:9; 2 Corinthians 3:9.—The best authorities leave out ἐν before δόξα. It may have been brought from 2 Corinthians 3:11. [It is not found in A. B. C. Sin., (though 3d Cor. inserts it and 1st Cor. has δόξῃ), and it nowhere else follows περισ; and yet Tisch. after wavering in his different editions restores it in his 7th. and regards the evidence as decisive in its favor here. Lachmann, Alford and Stanley cancelled it as brought from ἐν δόξῃ in 2 Corinthians 3:8 and 2 Corinthians 3:11.]
2 Corinthians 3:10; 2 Corinthians 3:10.—Rec. has οὐδὲ δεδόξασταί. The weight of evidence is decidedly in favor of οὐ δεδόξασται; the δὲ in οὐδε was probably taken from the first syllable of δεδόξασται.
[Since our author wrote, the Sinaiticus has added its authority to that of two cursives of the 12th cent., one copy of the Vulgate, the Aeth. of the Horn. Polyglot, and one Mss. of the Slavonic, in favor of ὑμῶν. But as the Corinthians were themselves the Epistle, they could hardly be confounded by the Apostle with the material on which it was written.]
[Though the context does not oblige us to interpret this assertion of any thing but Apostolical sufficiency, yet it is quite consistent with Paul’s usual freedom, to break from a special to a general subject. The language is quite general (λογίσασθαι τι), and the word refers to the lowest form of human mental activity: it is not merely to judge or determine, but to think (Hodge: “much easier than to will or do.”)]
[The Apostle intends no disparagement of a written law, or of the letter of either Testament. God was the author of both, and both are perfect for their proper objects. The letter of the N. T. was not written when Paul wrote this, and the contrast was therefore more striking. Chrysostom (Hom. VI., 2 Corinthians 3:5; and VII., 2 Corinthians 3:8) notices that the law itself was spiritual (Romans 7:14), but the Apostle here means that it does not bestow a spirit, but only letters, whereas the Apostles were intrusted with the giving of a spirit. The law only punishes the sinner, the Gospel saves him and gives him life. Paul does not say that the law itself, but only the ministration under it, produces death; it is sin alone which produces death, and the law only shows what sin is and then punishes it. As instrumentalities of grace, forms and ministers and letters are indispensable. For the historical facts and the objects of its faith, Christianity is as dependent upon the letter as Judaism. But these and all educational influences are as dead and unquickening as syllables engraven on stones, without the spirit; and yet the spiritualism which would do without them will be as dead and destitute of the Spirit as the deadliest letter of Rabbinical Judaism. A religion with only a letter is powerless, but without that letter it will have no spirit or life. It was the very written word which has since been “a stereotyped revelation,” which the Apostles made a judge of conscience (Acts 18:11; 1 Peter 4:11.)]
[Our Engl. verss. have here “written and engraven in stones,” which is hardly a literal translation even of the Rec.(ἐν γράμμασιν ἐντετυπ. λίθοις). A literal rendering would be: “In letters engraven on stones.” But on Lachmann’s reading (ἐν γράμματι,) the reference would be to the general writing of the whole ministration, whose essential germ however, was in the Decalogue. The plural λίθοις seems to imply that there were two tablets used.]
VII.—DIFFERENT RESULTS OF THE TWO KINDS OF MINISTRY. HARDENING OF THE JEWS
2 Corinthians 3:12-18
12Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness [unreservedness] of speech: 13And not as Moses, [om. which] put a veil over his16 face, that the children of Israel could [might] not steadfastly look to [upon] the end of that which is abolished: 14But their minds were blinded [hardened]: for until this day17 remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament; which veil is done away in Christ [upon the reading of the Old Testament remains the same veil untaken away, because it is taken away (only) in Christ]. 15But even unto this day, when Moses Isaiah 16:0 read18, the veil is [lies, κεῖται] upon their heart. Nevertheless, when it shall turn 17[turns] to the Lord, the veil shall be [is] taken away. Now the Lord is that [the] Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is [om. there]19 is liberty. 18But we all, with open [unveiled] face beholding as in a glass [mirror] the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, [om. even] as by the Spirit of the Lord [the Lord, the Spirit].
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
2 Corinthians 3:12-13. Having, therefore, such hope.—The ἐλπις (hope) has reference to the future glory of the New Testament ministry as it had been alluded to in 2 Corinthians 3:8. This glory had been called permanent in 2 Corinthians 3:11, and was to be for the glorification of Christ when he should come to judgment. Some interpreters regard 2 Corinthians 3:6 ff. as a digression, and think that we have here a resumption of the subject (σὖν) there broken off, and that ἐλπίς is here equivalent to πεποίθησις there. This is, however, directly opposed to the peculiar and essential signification of ἐλπίς, and to the connection. [That trust, even if we regard it as “filled out into hope by the intervening vision of the glory of his work” (Stanley), had reference rather to the results of his work, while this hope looked forward to something future and undeveloped]. The therefore (οὖν) introduces us to the practical results which were to follow the glorious ministration of the Gospel, and τοιαὐτην (such) indicates the greatness or superiority of the hope.—We use great boldness of speech.—The whole tenor of the discourse shows us that παῤῥησία cannot mean the internal confidence or joyfulness which the Apostle felt, but the frank, open and unreserved manner which characterized his outward deportment, and the plainness or perspicuity (evidentia) which distinguished his addresses. [Chrysostom: “We speak out everywhere with all freedom, abating, concealing, mistrusting nothing; with confidence, as if we had no idea that we should injure your sight as Moses did that of the Israelites.” The Greek word παῤῥησία embraces the three ideas of openness, candor, and boldness. Moses’ address was interrupted by intervals of concealment, and was constantly reserved on account of his want of full confidence in his people. We have no reason for fears, distrust or concealment]. The connection is: The glory which is connected with the New Testament ministry, makes us unreserved in our communications with the people, and induces us to present divine truth unveiled before them. The very spirit of our religion also demands this, for God’s people could never reach the glorious privileges he has promised them without an opportunity of looking freely and without reserve upon all that our system of religion contains. (Emmerling).—The phrase χρῆσθαι παῤῥησία occurs more than once in Plato. The idea contained in παῤῥησία χρώμεθα (Indicative, not Subjunctive) is carried out into more detail in 2 Corinthians 3:13, though negatively by referring to an opposite kind of proceeding by Moses.—And not as Moses put a veil over his face.—This principal sentence is elliptical, because its predicate is to be found in the incidental remark made in connection with it. Such an ellipsis may be found in other Greek writings, but must here be supplied from the words used and the connection following. We may supply after καὶ οὐ, simply ποιοῦμεν (we do), or more freely, τίθεμεν κάλυμμα ἐτὶ τὸ πρόσωπον ἡπμῶν (we put a veil over our faces). The allusion is to a veiling process, quite different from the great boldness which had just been professed. It is said that Moses put over his face a covering (veil); that the children of Israel might not gaze at (clearly see) the end of that which is passing away. By τέλος τοῦ καταργουμένου is meant either the end, the literal fading away of the splendor which was on Moses’ face (though such a view would not correspond with the subsequent part of the representation); the end of that splendor regarded as the symbol of the whole Old Testament ministration (office) and possibly of the Old Testament dispensation (Religion) itself; or (throwing aside the whole idea of a symbol) of the ministration or institution itself; or the end of Moses himself as the representative of that institution (in which case the masculine would not agree with the neuter τὸ καταργ. of 2 Corinthians 3:11); or the design, the purpose which that ministration or even the law itself was established to accomplish, the result to which that institution led, and for which it was prepared, viz., the divine glory to be unveiled in Christ, and of which the veiled radiance on Moses’ face was a symbol and reflection. (Comp. 2Co 3:14; 2 Corinthians 3:18, 2 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 4:6). Well established usage will not permit us to take πρὸς τὸ μὴ ecbatically [implying a mere consequence of a course of action, without reference to the views of the actors] in the sense of: so that, but we are obliged to understand by them the aim or purpose which the agents had in view. In every instance in which the phrase occurs in the New Testament it probably has reference to a subjective Divine purpose (comp. Meyer), and not to a merely objective result of divine arrangements. And yet we may suppose that so great a prophet as Moses, profoundly acquainted with the general scheme of the Divine administration, may have known that he was fulfilling a divine purpose, or at least that he was promoting such a result. That he was practising an intentional deception (Fritzsche), or was guilty of an improper dissimulation, the Apostle was far from implying. Even if we make the end of that which is passing away, refer to the end of Moses’ ministry (comp. 2 Corinthians 3:11), and suppose that Moses saw that end (τέλος) typified by the disappearance of the radiance from his face, such a covert proceeding (tecte agere) must be regarded simply as a pedagogic or disciplinary course of conduct. The same may be said of an interpretation proposed by Meyer (but which need not include a reference to a Rabbinic allegory), according to which Paul recognizes in τέλος, what he afterwards brings out more fully, viz., a judicial or retributive proceeding, at least on God’s part. This implies that a sight of the Divine radiance on Moses’ face was withheld from the children of Israel, because their previous conduct had made them unworthy of such a favor. Such a concealment was a symbolical representation of the fact that in consequence of their sins, Moses, i. e., the law represented by him, or the Scriptures of the Old Testament read by them, would remain so veiled before them, that they could never perceive the Divine glory which rested especially upon those Scriptures and those rites which testified of Christ; and accordingly they would continue in unbelief and have no part in the salvation by Christ. Neander: “The mind of the Apostle was entirely taken up with the symbolical meaning of this incident. Moses is in his eye simply a symbol of the whole legal economy, and from this point of view everything in the history is regarded. The covering which Moses used to conceal his face, represents the entire veil of symbols under which divine things were represented. As long as these divine things could be seen only in the light of the Old Testament, there was no way of distinguishing eternal truth from the temporary form in which it was represented to men (essence and symbol). The contrast here implied may therefore be carried out thus: we who make known the Gospel to men need never fear that its glory may some day come to an end. We may allow our hearers the clearest and freest inspection of its mysteries, and its radiance will only shine forth the more brightly.”20
[“The whole subsequent section (14–18) is parenthetical. Before and after it, the ministry is the subject; in it, they to whom the ministry is directed. But it serves to show the whole spirit and condition of the two classes, and thus further to substantiate the character of openness and freedom asserted of the Christian ministry” (Alford)].
2 Corinthians 3:14-16. But their minds (mental perceptions) were hardened (made callous).—The words distinctly announce that this was a divine judgment. Νοὴματα signifies not the already formed thoughts (2 Corinthians 2:11), but as in 2 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 11:3, the spiritual sense, the power used in thinking and willing (Beck, Seelenl. p. 59), or the various activities of the νοῦς (Meyer). We may furthermore conceive (retaining the signification usually given: thoughts, intellectual perceptions), that these powers become petrified or hardened, i. e., are put so completely into stocks, and made immovable, that they no longer yield to pressure, and can make no progress toward that clear knowledge on which everything depends. Πωροῦν, (from Πῶρος, callus, an induration of the skin which destroys all sensibility), obdurare, to harden, to blunt (Isaiah 6:10; Mark 6:52; Mark 8:17), is sometimes used with respect to the heart (καρδία. Romans 11:25), and sometimes of the Jews (οἰ λοιποί). We are left in doubt when this hardening took place, for this depends upon the relation given to ἀλλά. If this has reference to παῤῥησια χρώμεθα, and particularly to καὶ οὑ (2 Corinthians 3:13), meaning: “We act in an open manner, with no such concealment as Moses practised, and yet their νοήματα have become hardened,” we must suppose that the hardening had but recently taken place when the Apostle wrote. But if we refer it to πρὸς τὸ μὴ , (i. e., to their gazing, etc.), the hardening must have taken place in Moses’ time, though the subsequent remarks show that it had continued to the Apostle’s own time. It is in favor of the latter reference, that the veil is immediately afterwards the subject of discourse. In this case it is said directly that the minds of the people were hardened, that, they might not look upon the end (scope, object) of that which is abolished. He proves and illustrates his position, that the hardening was not abolished, by an appeal to the actual facts before their eyes, in the condition of the nation at the time he was speaking:—for until this day, the same veil remains on the reading of the Old Covenant.—That these facts resulted from the same causes which were in action in Moses’ day, he asserts by saying that the same veil (τὸ αὐτὸ κάλυμμα) remains: for as a veil was interposed between the divine radiance on Moses’ face and the eyes of the Israelites, so has the divine radiance of the Old Covenant been concealed from that people, down to the period in which he was writing. [It is not directly implied that this veil was over the heart, under the preaching of the Gospel. The reference is solely to the Israelitish nation under the hearing and reading of the Old Covenant. But the change of the medium of communication makes necessary a change of figure. After Moses oral communications ceased—it was a book which spoke to them. The reason any do not see the glory when they read, is not in the book which addresses them, but in the heart of the reader. The active influence which obstructed the proper understanding of the truth was in the other direction, and the veil had to be on the heart. Comp. Alford.] It is as if a veil had been thrown over the reading, for the great truths of the Old Covenant were not recognized even when they were plainly read, and the glory of God actually contained in that dispensation remained a mystery to them. [In opposition to Theodoret, who maintains that the power which hardens, was entirely from within the heart itself, Meyer endeavors to show that the passive επωρώθη clearly implies that the hardening was the act of another (comp. Romans 11:7). The word signifies blindness (as in our authorized English version) only by a double metaphor, i. e., by supposing that the intellect and heart lose their perceptive power. Chrysostom says the nation became “τὸπαχὺ καὶ χαμαίζηλον, stupid and grovelling,” because they prided themselves on the superior glory of Moses.] ’Επι may refer either to place, i. e., over the reading, which would here correspond to the face of Moses when he spoke to the people; or (better) to time, i. e., during the reading. Comp. 2 Corinthians 3:15, ἡνίκα , etc. We meet with the phrase παλαιὰ διαθήκη (Old Covenant) nowhere else in the New Testament; and it must here designate, not the original Scriptures, the collection of books which now bear the name, but the Covenant itself; the substance of what was read in the synagogues (the writings of Moses and the Prophets), whose types and promises contained the divine glory afterwards revealed in Christ. [Such an expression shows how deep was Paul’s conviction, that that ancient covenant was now becoming antiquated, and was about to be superseded.]
In the remaining part of 2 Corinthians 3:14, μὴ may be construed as if the participle were to be taken absolutely—it not being unveiled (or discovered to them) that it (the Old Covenant) is done away in Christ.—Or, inasmuch as it remained concealed from the Jews that the Old Covenant was to be abrogated in consequence of the appearance and work of Christ (Romans 10:4; Colossians 2:14). Such an expression would be a particular determination of what had been meant by saying that the same veil remains, etc. These words may, however, be joined with the previous words so as to say: “the same veil in the reading of the Old Covenant remains not taken away,” and then ὅτι ἐν χριςτῷ καταργεῖται gives us the reason: “because it is taken away in Christ.” That this would actually take place only in Christ was a self-evident thing to the Apostle and his readers; and that this “only” is sufficiently indicated by the emphasis which must be laid upon ἐν χρισρῷ, cannot be doubted. It is very natural, however, from the example of 2 Corinthians 3:13, to refer καταργεῖται to the Old Covenant, and an entirely different word (περιαιρεῖται) is used with respect to the removal of the veil. On the other hand the structure of the sentence makes it natural to connect ἀνακαλυπτόμενον with κάλυμμα; and even if we have a right to use the participle in this case absolutely (since it is not common for any verbs to be used in this way except ἐξόν, εἰρημένον, and such like), it is hard to justify the use of ἀνακαλυπτε͂ιν in this absolute manner, inasmuch as everywhere else it has with it an accusative of the object. The attempt which Rückert has made to combine the two constructions together, and to make the Apostle say: “and will not be taken away, that they (the people) might see that it (the Old Covenant) has its end in Christ,” has no claim to our acceptance. The reading ὅ τι, which Luther [and our Eng. translators] followed, and which makes the nature of the covering itself the reason for its not being removed (=quippe quod, Meyer) has opposed to it all the old versions, whose testimony on such a point should have especial importance. The positive contrast to the negative μὴ . is given in 2 Corinthians 3:15—But even until this day when Moses is read, a veil lies upon their heart.—This means, according to the previous construction, either, “it will not be disclosed that, etc., but until this day the veil is upon their hearts;” or “and will not be discovered, because it will be taken away in Christ, but until this day a covering lies,” etc. The latter interpretation would not seem to have required the repetition of κάλυμμα. The want of the article may be accounted for on both interpretations on the ground that the veil is transposed from the object looked upon to the persons looking. This change may have been in the Apostle’s mind when he wrote 2 Corinthians 3:14, if ἐπὶ (τῃ .) be taken with respect to time, and then the present clause is only a more complete definition of that idea. In no case (even if ἐπὶ has the sense of on or over) could the Apostle have spoken of two coverings in order to imply a high degree of incapacity. This would have required an additional καί before ἐπὶ τήν καρδ. αὐτῶν. This is the only time ἡνίκα is found in the New Testament, but in the Sept. it occurs frequently, and in this very passage in Exodus 34:34 it is used in the sense of a space of time =when. The name Μωῦσῆς signifies here the writings of Moses. The covering said to be extended [“ κεῖται ἐπῖ with the accusative21 pregnans: involving the being laid on and remaining there”—Alford] over the hearts of the people, signifies not an obstruction to their moral powers i. e., of the will, but a defect in the intellectual faculties of understanding.—But when it turns unto the Lord the veil is taken away (2 Corinthians 3:16).—Here the veil in fact is said to be removed in consequence of an act of the will. The heart (καρδία), which is the subject of ἐπιστρέψη (for as τις or ’Ισραηλ have not yet been mentioned, they cannot be made such a subject), seems to be regarded here in two aspects: first as the seat of intelligence, and then as the seat of the will or of self-determination. The ἐπιστρέφειν ἐπὶ τὸν κύριον, is the turning of one’s self to Christ, and this is a conversion just as far as it had been preceded by a turning away. In the rejection of the Lord the heart of the children of Israel was regarded as completely apostate, and hence its conversion to Christ would be looked upon as a return to the Lord. This conversion is supposed to have taken place before the veil is taken away, inasmuch as the latter is said to be the consequence of the former (ἡνίκα ἅν). Luther’s translation: “Wenn es sich bekehrte, so würde,” etc., (if it shall turn, the veil will, etc.), is incorrect, and would not perhaps have been made had the author of it not been influenced, probably unconsciously, by the idea that such a conversion before the removal of the veil was impossible. But the same assertion is found manifestly in Romans 11:25 ff. The Apostle is not speaking of those individual conversions which take place in every age. But when this general conversion shall be brought about, when that aversion to Christ which springs from a carnal mind and proud self-righteousness shall be overcome, and when, consequently, they shall confidingly and with sincere acknowledgements of their guilty error and unbelief, turn to Him, they will clearly discover as they read the Old Testament that it everywhere bears testimony for Christ. The Divine glory really contained in its types and prophecies, and now more fully revealed in Christ himself, will shine so clearly that they will be able to look upon it with a steadfast gaze. The expression reminds us of Exodus 34:34. In the mind of the Apostle the removal of the covering from Moses’ face when he went again into the Divine presence seemed a type of the future removal of Israel’s blindness. Περιαιρε͂ιν contains an intimation that the veil was completely around the heart. [As this is the verb used in the Sept. of Exodus 34:34, and as περιῃρε͂ιτο there and almost uniformly throughout that version can be taken only in an active sense, Stanley contends that the word here (περιαιρε͂ιται) should have an active and not a passive sense (strips off—not, is stript off). He also thinks that the only nominative which both ἐπιστρέψῃ and περιαρε͂ιται can have is Μωῦσῆς (and in this Calvin and Estius agree with him), since ’Ισραὴλ is too remote, and ἡ καρδια is not sufficiently prominent. He thinks that then each clause beginning with ἡνίκα will correspond, and that the parallel with Exodus 34:34 will be preserved. He takes Moses as the representative of not only the Old Covenant but of the nation, and makes the sense to be: “when Moses, in the person of his people, turns again to Him who is our Lord now as he went of old time to Him who was their Lord in Sinai, then he strips off the veil from his face and from their hearts, and then the perishable nature of the law will be made manifest in the full blaze of the Divine glory.” But ἡ̔ καρδία is quite as natural a subject for ἐπιστρέψῃ, and as likely to be prominent in the Apostle’s mind as Μωῦσῆς, and the idea of ἐπιστρέψη is certainly that of a thorough conversion, and not a mere change of opinion about the law. The careful adoption by the Apostle of the words of the Sept., some of which were strange to him, shows that he was closely copying the imagery of the history; and he here intends to say, that as Moses had on a veil when his face was turned away from God, and took it off when he went in to God, so the heart of the people when turned from the Lord was veiled, and when it turned to him had the veil removed. Both ἐπιστρέψη and περιαιρ. should be rendered as an indefinite present and not in the future as in the authorized version. The turning and removing of the veil was in process of completion. The process was continually going on by the turning of individuals in every age, though the general conversion was in the distant future.]
2 Corinthians 3:17-18.—Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, is liberty—(2 Corinthians 3:17). This sentence is connected with 2 Corinthians 3:16, and explains or gives the reason for what is said there. We have in fact a syllogism, though its several members are not given in their regular order. The major premise is: Where the Spirit of the Lord is, is freedom; the minor is: as the Lord is the Spirit, whoever turns to the Lord has that Spirit; and the conclusion is: therefore such a one must be free, and will no more be enveloped by the covering which veils and checks the action of the soul (Meyer). It is evident from 2 Corinthians 3:18 that the liberty connected with the removal of the covering which obstructed the people’s open insight into the divine glory, is not a new subject of discourse foreign to what had been discussed, as e. g., a freedom from the yoke of the law (though this must be virtually communicated during such an insight). ̔Ο δὲ κύριος is intimately connected with 2 Corinthians 3:16 : ‘But the Lord, to whom their heart thus turns, is the Spirit.’ Many artificial explanations have been given of this verse. Without noticing those attempts which have been in direct contradiction to the meaning of the words and the scope of the context, (one of which went so far as to conjecture that the reading must have been οὐ δέ κύριος) we find here such an identification of Christ and the Holy Spirit, that the Lord, to whom the heart turns, is in no practical respect different from the Holy Spirit received in conversion. The fellowship of Christ into which it entered, when it turned to the Lord, was in truth the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Christ is virtually the Spirit, inasmuch as He communicates Himself in conversion, and at other times by means of the Spirit; the Holy Spirit is His spirit: the animating principle of the Lord’s indwelling and influence in the hearts of believers is this Holy Spirit (comp. Romans 8:9 ff.; Galatians 2:20; Galatians 4:6; Philippians 1:19; Acts 10:28 comp. with Ephesians 4:11; John 14:18 et. al.). In favor of this explanation is the immediately following phrase: οὐ δέ τὸ πνεῦμα κυρίου (where the Spirit of the Lord is), in which we may notice also, that the article before πνεῦμα indicates that every thing which is certainly the work of the Spirit, must be exclusively from Christ (Neander). But such a virtual identification of Christ and the Spirit, can have reference only to Christ in His state of exaltation (comp. 1 Corinthians 15:45); for it is only in that state that He is the independent source of all divine light and power to the bodies and souls of believers. He is then no longer dependent upon any source beyond Himself, for the divine light and power which he possesses or dispenses: and the Son of man is no longer the Son of God in a state of self-renunciation, dependent upon the influences of the Spirit, but a perfect centre of divine fulness. Hence, we may say of Him: he is the Spirit, (not merely quasi) because he is glorified in the spiritual world. From this it moreover follows (for the idea is essential to that of the Spirit of God), that the new birth, (in which what is here called liberty, i. e., the free action of the mind, a free intuition of the divine glory, and a release from the impediments of a fleshly nature, is included) must have its source in Him. He it is who makes like Himself those who turn to Him, and from Him proceeds the pure free light of life (the truth which makes us free). Hence no sooner is it said that the Lord is the Spirit than He is called the Spirit of the Lord. [Paul had been speaking of a spirituality in the ancient dispensation, which had been entirely missed by the ancient Jews. This abstract spirituality he wished to connect with a concrete reality, and hence he here says that the Lord (to whom the heart of the people must turn) is that Spirit. Even this Lord, he also wishes to identify (not in his essential nature, but in his activity in this special department) with the Holy Spirit (who, the next verse shows, is here meant). Comp. Alford. The ancient fathers (especially Chrysostom and Augustine, see Wordsworth) were led by their extreme dogmatic zeal to press this verse into a proof of the Holy Spirit’s divinity. They almost universally construed τὸ πνεῦμα as the subject, and ὁ κύριος as the predicate of the sentence. Grammatically this is allowed to be perhaps possible, (Alford, Meyer). but it is evidently forced, and the sentiment so expressed would be entirely foreign to the course of the Apostle’s argument. It is only inferentially from the identity of our Lord’s and the Spirit’s operations, that such a doctrine here enters]. In 2 Corinthians 3:18 he refers still further to the way in which this freedom, which has its source in the Lord and his Spirit, is produced among those who believe in Christ. In illustrating this he now recurs to the figure of the glory and the free looking upon it.—But we all with open face.—The object of δὲ is, not to put what was now to be said in contrast with what had been said of the Israelites or of Moses, (as if his idea was: “this is true not only of one, but of all,”) but simply to indicate a continuance of the discourse. ̓Ημεῖς (we) includes not merely the Apostle and his fellow-laborers, or the Apostle and all who preach the Gospel (Catholics appeal to 2 Corinthians 4:1, and contrast πάντες (all) with the single individual Moses), but all believers, who, the connection shows, must be included in the πάντες. (Chap 2 Corinthians 4:3; 2 Corinthians 4:6). In correspondence with the removal of the veil and the liberty of which he had been speaking, he now speaks of an open or unveiled face (ἀνακεκαλυμμένῳ προσώπῳ). This implies that the covering which had been extended over the heart of the people might be taken off, and that the spiritual face might thus be freed from the veil which prevented its vision of the glory. In consistency with this, must be our explanation of the next clause:—beholding in a glass—κατοπτριζόμενοι). This word, which is not found at all in the Septuagint, and occurs in the New Testament only in this place, has the sense in the active voice of: to show in a mirror, or, as in a mirror, to reflect; and in the middle: to reflect one’s self, to see one’s self in a glass [Winer, § 39, 3; Jeff., § 362 ff.]. With reference to the example of Moses, we may interpret the words thus: we show to ourselves in a mirror the glory of the Lord; and in doing so we are not veiled as Moses, but we have uncovered faces. We are compelled, however, by both the preceding and the succeeding context, to think of a looking of believers, 1, in contrast with the Israelites, who were kept from looking upon the Divine glory by a covering upon their hearts; and 2, with reference to the being changed (μεταμορφῦμεθα) connected with this looking (comp. 1 John 3:2). Κατοπτριζεσθαι has therefore the meaning in this place of: to perceive as in a mirror (we meet with the word in this sense in Philo.; see Meyer). There is no imperfection, of vision necessarily implied here, as in 1 Corinthians 13:12. The glass is not the internal spirit, i. e., the heart of the believer (for the eye which looks is supposed to be there), but the Gospel.—The glory of the Lord (i. e., of Christ, not of God) is the representation which is given of Christ‘s life, greatness, power, loveliness, etc. (Beck, Christl. Lehrwiss. I., p. 67), or of His grace and truth (John 1:14), His holiness and Divine fulness (Colossians 2:9), as these were manifested among men. These are exhibited to us in the Gospel as in a mirror. And as we look into this by faith, freely and unobstructed by any covering of a fleshly mind (such as impeded the vision of the Jews)—we are changed into the same image.—The image here is the image of the Lord, and that with which it is said to be identical (αὐτὴν), is not the πάντες (as if he would thus say that all were made alike), but that which they had been said to look upon, viz., the very same image which we all behold, for we all behold the glory of the Lord as in a mirror. While thus looking we shall be changed: we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2; comp. Romans 8:29). Neander: “We have here a beautiful contrast: the Jews who looked with covered faces upon the glory in Moses’ face, did not really look into it, and so remained as they were before, unchanged. But when Christians look with unveiled faces upon the image of God in Christ, this very looking implies that they are already in communion with Christ, and necessarily reacts upon their internal and spiritual life. The more they penetrate by such a believing contemplation the Divine glory, the more will their hearts be pervaded by what they behold.” There is no direct reference therefore to the final transformation which believers will experience when Christ shall come in the Parousia, but only to the gradual assimilation to Christ which takes place in them during the present life: the becoming partakers of the Divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) and the putting on, of Christ, and of the new man (Romans 13:14; Ephesians 4:24). The accusative does not require that any word like κατά or είς should be understood; nor need the whole phrase be taken in an adverbial sense analogous to τοῦτον τὸν τρόπον (in this wise); for in the very idea it is implied that the development or change is according to a particular form (Meyer). In the phrase: from glory to glory the words from glory (άπὸ δόξης) may designate the causal source from which the influence proceeds, i. e.. “the glory of the Lord;” and to glory (εἰς δόξαν) the glory which is produced in us, that to which it brings us (comp. 2 Corinthians 2:16); or the whole phrase may signify the continuous development as it advances step by step. The former explanation receives support from the sentence which immediately follows:—as by the Lord the Spirit (καθάπερ ). And yet the other explanation harmonizes very well with μεταμορφούμεθα, and on etymological grounds may readily be conceded, inasmuch as ἀπὸ δόξης εἰς δόξαν would be quite as allowable a form of speech as ἐκ δυνόνμεως εἰς δύναμιν (Psalms 84:8). The καθάπερ . πν. may also be made to harmonize very well with this explanation: we shall be changed from one degree of glory to another just as might be expected from the Lord (or according to the nature of what comes from the Lord). The καθάπερ has a more forcible signification than ὡς, and denotes the agreement of the effect with the cause (like ὡς in 2 Corinthians 2:17). We may inquire whether πνεύματος in the phrase ἀπὸ κυρὶου πνεύματος is dependent upon ἀπὸ and κυρίου upon πνεύματος [by the Spirit of the Lord], comp. 2 Corinthians 3:17, πνεῦμα κυρίου; or whether πνεύματος is governed by κυπίου [by the Lord of the Spirit], in which case we may also inquire whether the words πνεύμ. and κυρ. are in the relation of dependence (by the Spirit which is from the Lord), or in that of apposition (by the Spirit who is the Lord). To govern πνεύματος directly by ἀπὸ is not allowable evidently on account of the position of the words. We must certainly concede also that the relation of apposition is not as natural as that which is commonly given to the genitive. The relation of dependence which has commonly been acquiesced in for our passage gives us likewise a very good sense: “very much as we might expect from one who is the Lord of the Spirit” (comp. κύριος τῆς δόξης in 1 Corinthians 2:8). Κυριος (Lord) furthermore implies that the Lord not only has or possesses the Spirit, but that He has complete power in this matter to direct in the dispensation and communication of the Spirit according to His pleasure in ever growing fulness. If we so construe it as to make this Spirit the same as the Holy Spirit, even that Divine agent is His Spirit (Romans 8:9 f.; Galatians 4:6), for the Spirit is shed forth or sent, by and through Him (Titus 3:6; Acts 2:33; John 15:26); so that the Spirit’s agency among men is dependent upon Him. If, however, the words are taken in a qualitative sense: “by one who is the Lord of the Spirit,” i. e., of the Divine light of life, this Divine light of life is no other than the πνεῦμαἅγιον which He communicates from the infinite fulness of His own Divine life. The want of the article before. both κυρίου and πνεύματος makes this qualitative signification most probable. [As Meyer well remarks, however, this qualitative meaning is entirely inadmissible here, since throughout our passage the word τνεῦμα must mean the Holy Spirit (the Divine Spirit) in His personal subsistence]. Both interpretations, however, terminate in the same general sense. Neander: “Paul has before his mind in this passage the whole course of the Christian’s progress, commencing here on earth and attaining its perfection in the heavenly world.”
[Each prominent word in this passage has been made the object of special attention and difficulty. 1. The object beheld, was the glory of the Lord. Paul had shown this to be Christ (2 Corinthians 3:17), but He is here contemplated as an image (εἰκόνα) in a mirror (not “a glass,” but κατόπτρον). An image is usually an imperfect likeness (1 Corinthians 13:12), and the Gospel must imperfectly represent Him. It is not the objective and glorified Christ Himself that we see. 2. The act of beholding, is here (not ἀτενιζω, as with Moses, but) κατοπτρίζω. The rays are reflected and not directly received (see Chrysostom’s beautiful comparisons in the Hom. notes). The ancient expositors usually interpreted this word in the sense of: reflecting as in a mirror, meaning that believers reflect the glory of the Lord, and they are followed by Luther, Olshausen, Billroth and Stanley. But most modern commentators have felt compelled to disregard their authority, high as it is on such a question, and to take the word in the sense of beholding as in a mirror. Though they have been able to appeal to but one well established quotation (Philo) to sustain them in such a usage, one instance especially in Alexandrian Greek is sufficient, with the obvious necessities of the context, to warrant us in adopting such a meaning. Certainly no instance has been found in which the word has the meaning: to reflect, and we can see no connection between reflecting the Divine image and being changed into the same. 3. The persons beholding, are many, “all (πάντες in contrast with one Moses), with open face.” Both Christ and the heart are ἀνακεκαλυμμένοι. 4. The effect of the beholding is, “we are metamorphosed into the same image” (accusative without a preposition to show the immediateness of the transition, and the present indic, to show the beginning but not the completion of the change, Webster, Syn., pp. 81 ff.). All become like their Lord, and of course like one another. 5. The reason for the change, “as by the Lord the Spirit.” Suitably, as might be expected from the Lord (καθάπερ), and efficiently (ἀπὸ) from Him as the source of influence. We cannot but sympathize with Alford when he says of the rendering: the Lord of the Spirit, that it “seems to convey very little meaning, besides being altogether unprecedented.” We add that Paul had been preparing us for the expression: the Lord the Spirit (apposition, the Lord who is the Spirit) by expressly showing that Christ was both the Lord and the Spirit of the Old Covenant (2 Corinthians 3:16-18). Such an expression seems as grammatical and suitable as “from God the Father” (ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς) in Romans 1:7; Ephesians 1:2; Philippians 1:2, et alic. comp. 2 Corinthians 1:2].
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. Even in the understanding of revealed truth, there is a clear distinction between legal bondage and evangelical freedom. Until the mind gets extricated from that bondage it is concerned only with a multiplicity of special details; the living unity formed by the general truths, in which all these concentrate, is covered by a veil—and no proper conception of the divine system as a whole, is possible. The glory of Christ which constitutes the true aim of every part of God’s word can never be appreciated or discovered by a heart thus confined and lowered, for such occupations will be like a veil over the internal eye. But no sooner does one attain the position of evangelical freedom than his eye is opened upon the general system and principles of truth. And such a position is gained when the heart is turned toward Christ, in whom the fulness of the Godhead substantially dwells, all particular rays of truth concentrate, and each truth acquires a self-evidencing power. The moment we thus recognize and surrender our hearts to Christ, we renounce all idea of satisfaction in ourselves or our doings, and we lay hold on Christ as the only source of peace or life. The veil immediately drops from our spiritual face, the divine glory in the Scriptures acquires a wonderful lustre, our souls become thoroughly enamored of God in Christ, and we begin to grow into the image of holy love as it beams from the Gospel. A living likeness of Christ is formed within, old things pass away, and all things are created anew. A quickening light brightens up within us, from glory to glory unto the perfect day of the celestial life.
2. This legal position may be illustrated in all those who turn from the more perfect revelation God has given us in the Gospel, but especially in the Jewish people still clinging to a dispensation which was intended to be only provisional and shadowy. In religious matters, their intellectual faculties have always been torpid and inflexible; and they seem unable to leave the schoolmaster, whose only business was to direct them to Christ himself (Galatians 3:24). They know only the law as given by Moses, and nothing of grace and truth by Jesus Christ (John 1:17). By minute acts of obedience to many particular precepts they hope to merit the divine favor, and they fail of recognizing that righteousness of faith which renounces all merit and trusts to mere grace, though it was often illustrated in the lives of their own saints, and in all the dealings of God under the ancient covenant. In like manner when they contemplated their prophetic Scriptures, their minds were occupied only with such particular expressions as best accorded with their carnal notions, and they failed to comprehend that general kingdom in which all such specifications find their right position and unity. But a time is coming when not only a few individuals, as in past and present times, but the whole nation shall become tired of such things, and with humble hearts and broken spirits shall turn to Him who was promised and offered first, and who still offers Himself, to them as their Messiah. In His own time He will so present Himself to them, that they will confess with shame, that He, and He alone, is their Messiah; with a free and clear insight they will read that Word which has so long been a sealed book (Isaiah 29:10 ff); the covering shall be taken away from their hearts; and they will look with unveiled faces upon that Christ who is not only their true Lord, but the Spirit, and communicates the Spirit and spiritual liberty to all who turn to Him.
[3. The Old Testament should be studied under the New Testament light. Not only should we throw ourselves back among the persons and scenes there portrayed, so as to understand what was real and necessary for them, but as much as possible look on them in their relation to the whole future of God’s kingdom. As a part of a preparatory system, directed by a Ruler who sees the end from the beginning, all persons and events have quite as much significance with reference to something in the future, as with reference to the age and circumstances in which they were. A Grotius therefore, who found a Christ nowhere in the Old Testament, fails of reaching its true significance, quite as much as a Cocceius, who found Him in everything.
4. The Lord Jesus was as fundamental a reality under the Old Covenant as under the New. He “was that Spirit” which was truly under the letter, and “the Lord” from whom the people then turned. The Incarnation was not the first and abrupt entrance of a divine Person into our humanity. Christ was not only “the body” to every “shadow” (Colossians 2:17) but the agent in every event and institution of the ancient covenant. Every redeemed sinner of every age must owe not only his redemption to “the blood of the cross,” but his recovery and conduct unto actual salvation, to him as the “Captain of the Lord’s host.” He is the only Mediator between God and man; and whatever falsehood we discover under the Rabbinic fables of the “Angel Jehovah,” we must recognize “the Lord the Spirit” under the “Jehovah” of the ancient covenant.
5. And yet there is an essential distinction between the Old and the New Dispensation. If we refuse to go with many who would totally divorce Christianity from Judaism, we equally shrink from those who look upon it simply as a developed Judaism. Though every dispensation of the true religion must be built upon the same fundamental principles, their outward forms may be radically different. The patriarchal and Mosaic ministrations were predominantly and characteristically legal. The latter especially, was a system of minute rules, and but few principles. Little was left to discretion or free affection. Pardon was shadowed forth as well as human guilt under the sacrifices, but these were a veil which concealed a mystery not to be trusted to men’s weakness. An esoteric reserve was in every rite and symbol. The New Covenant abolishes all this. God’s people are entrusted with the highest mysteries. The disciplina of Hellenism, of Rabbinism, and of Sacerdotalism generally, is entirely abjured. All idea of a pedagogic system, preparatory to something hereafter, is renounced. God’s people are no longer in pupilage, but in their full majority. Christianity is an everlasting Gospel, and the last of all conceivable dispensations of the true religion among men. See a Sermon of Dr. Emmons, on “The Mosaic Dispensation abolished by the Christian Dispensation.” Works, Vol. VI. Ser. 13.
6. Congeniality of mind is indispensable to a perception of the truth. No one is prepared to study theological truth until he has “turned to the Lord.” When he yearns after the Lord and salvation, then the veil which confined the view to what is selfish and individual, drops off from the heart, and a full system of truth and an everlasting kingdom beams upon an “open face.” John 7:17.
7. The Jewish people are yet to be converted to Christ. It is a wonderful prophecy which the ancient Prophets and Apostles have given us, that amid the wreck of all ancient nations, the Jewish, the most unlikely to do so of them all, should survive; and that the heart (the collective national heart) would turn to Christ. This is a separate matter from the assertion, that as the “Covenant people,” they are to have special privileges and honors among other nations in the kingdom of Christ.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
2 Corinthians 3:18. “As soon as we are baptized, our souls being cleansed by the Spirit are illuminated so as to shine brighter than the sun; we not only look into the divine glory, but we receive a degree of lustre from it, as a piece of pure silver receives the rays of the sun when it is placed within its beams and reflects them—not merely because of its own nature, but because of the sun’s luminousness. In like manner the soul which has been purified and made brighter than silver, receives a beam of the Spirit’s glory, and reflects it.” [Theodoret:—As clear water presents an image of those who look upon it, of the sun itself and of the vaulted sky, so the pure heart is converted into a kind of copy and mirror of the divine glory.]
2 Corinthians 3:12. Whoever would cheerfully speak of divine truth, must first receive Christ freely and joyfully to his own heart, and believe that salvation is freely offered to all men (1 Timothy 2:4). Hedinger:
2 Corinthians 3:13. Israel’s blindness was more than common; they had much preaching and but slight impression; Moses’ face shone brightly upon them, and why could they not behold him? A brutish habit, a dull intellect, inveterate wickedness, and an irreconcilable antipathy to God and His Word, had formed a thick covering around their hearts (2 Corinthians 4:3). 2 Corinthians 3:14 :—Hedinger. Israel’s blindness was not a mere natural effect, but a judgment of God that they might henceforth be ever reading but learning nothing. What multitudes seem in haste to harden their hearts by their abuse of hearing and reading! Why do they read at all, if they have no desire to be healed (Mark 4:25)? If we would derive any profit from reading the Old Testament, or get rid of Moses’ covering, we must become acquainted with Jesus Christ and seek for Him there. Then shall we perceive that the law was never given us to justify us, and that the only justification which will avail before God, is not in ourselves, but in Christ by faith.
2 Corinthians 3:15. It is a terrible thing to be blind, but to be blind with no desire to see in the midst of clear light, is far worse (John 9:39; Revelation 3:17).
2 Corinthians 3:16. We can never have a true practical knowledge of God except by turning to the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:17. To have Jesus alone, is to have the Gospel comfort and the sweetest pleasure. The surest refreshment is found in the way of godly sorrow. Glorious triumph of faith! The curse is abolished, Satan is vanquished, and sin is taken away; every cord is cut, and we are free!
2 Corinthians 3:18 : A knowledge of God’s love, holiness and goodness as they are presented in the Gospel, is like a clear reflection of the sun, it produces a copy of those divine perfections in the soul, which receives the impression as naturally as the eye does an image from the mirror. The more we receive of such knowledge, the more perfectly are those attributes reproduced in our faith and life.—Hedinger: Imprint, O Jesus, thine image on our souls, and make us more entirely like thyself!
Berlenb. Bible, 2 Corinthians 3:12 :—A spiritual mind knows in whom it has believed, and the Spirit of the Son will lead it directly to the Father, that it may know and make known to others, both the Father and the Son. This is the perpetual well-spring of an ingenuous spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:13. Why should any now be kept back by a slavish, timid and hesitating spirit, when they have a right to claim all the blessings of divine grace?
2 Corinthians 3:14. “They have eyes, and yet they see not.” It is all the same as if they could not read. This is a righteous judgment upon them for shutting themselves from the light, and refusing to be drawn by the Father. “Ye search the Scriptures, and ye do well; but ye will not come to me”—(John 5:39-40). Thus it is among many at the present day; indeed a double covering is now in their way, for it rests not only upon the Old, but upon the New Testament. They have never been anointed with the Spirit; they will not humbly bow before the Lord, and their own righteousness always stands before them as an idolatrous pillar. 2 Corinthians 3:15. Let us by all means get out of that old Judaism which receives nothing but what pleases us—for it is under the influence of such a spirit that the hearts of many are hardened, and hypocritically indulge in a thousand prejudices against the truth and its proper spirit. “Are we not Lutherans,” they exclaim, “have we not been baptized, etc.” Those who resist the truth, tell us much of certain intellectual powers with which man is endowed (reason). We would not despise these, but we dare not appeal to them as the final arbitrators and sources of religious truth. And yet this is what has bewitched multitudes of our learned men.
2 Corinthians 3:16. Let men cease to prescribe barren rules and institutions for the Lord, and let them turn to Him prayerfully and with all their hearts, and they will soon find that their light will brighten, a host of prejudices will vanish, and darkness and error will be cleared away—(Isaiah 25:7). Though the covering may have wrapped itself completely around our spirits, if wo will but turn to the light and seek wisdom from God in sincere faith, it will be torn away. (Ephesians 5:14; Acts 9:11; Acts 9:18).—Oftentimes when an intelligent man imagines that he has attained a permanent and lively conception of sacred mysteries, he receives the Divine anointing, and finds that a number of coverings had been formed upon his heart; he is surprised to gain entirely new views of God’s word, and as the salve of God’s Spirit gradually extends over his mental eye, one film of legal and figurative forms after another falls off.
2 Corinthians 3:17. The Lord the Spirit who gives us spiritual life, and delivers us from all constraint of external authority, all unwillingness, indolence and feebleness, etc., in the performance of our duties. (John 8:36). The glory of the Lord then sheds its beams upon an open face.—Whoever truly looks into the ministry and law of liberty, can never be out of harmony with the Divine will, for the Spirit directs him and supplies him with all he needs. He can have no fellowship with any thing which is impure, for the Spirit is always directing his mind to those higher and better things which satisfy him. Such is the spiritual freedom which withdraws us from the slavery of sense, and not only subjects the body to the spirit but the spirit itself to God’s Spirit.—The way by which we reach it is very likely by a painful experience of what a legal bondage is. Under such sorrows faith in Christ puts forth its power and finds deliverance in Him. Then the humbled heart knows how to appreciate the freedom of a pure service, and yields a cheerful obedience. Without making a sinful conscience of any thing, it will indulge in no sin, and will rather renounce its own freedom on account of another’s weakness.—What before seemed a severe discipline and torment, is now a light which drives away all darkness. The soul is in the light and walks in the light.—Where the Lord is, He has a sanctuary in which He and His Spirit dwells; a glorious ministration of the Spirit is carried on; God is worshipped in the beauty of holiness; and a new life, and a new freedom, and a blessedness never known before, is enjoyed.
2 Corinthians 3:18. As sunbeams produce an image of the sun, so the beams of Divine glory produce a Divine likeness.—If we will but stand before the mirror of our crucified Lord, His lovely image will so impress itself upon our hearts that we shall partake of His peculiar Spirit. Loving Him with all our hearts we must become like Him. We shall thus in our measure see God as we walk, and possess a more than ordinary enjoyment of God and of His glory.—And yet such a transformation must not be expected at once, but gradually, from one degree of glory and Divine blessedness to another (comp. 2 Corinthians 4:16); and always in a way which makes us feel our dependence upon grace (as by the Spirit of the Lord). The moment we take our eyes from Him we shall fall back into stiff and legal forms.—All true Christians, in proportion to their susceptibility, must even in this life have a part in Christ’s glory. Obstinate sinners, on the other hand, will be overshadowed by the image of Satan, from one degree of darkness to another as by the Spirit of the pit.
Rieger, 2 Corinthians 3:12 :—We must often think of the permanent results of our preaching in another world. (1 Thessalonians 2:19). “If we make it our constant and all absorbing aim to please the Lord Jesus and to stand approved at His coming, we cannot but be more earnest in our work and more untiring in our diligence and patience. If I would not lose my own soul and be rejected as an unprofitable servant, I must be sure of finding some souls who have been benefited by my ministrations. The Lord grant it for Christ’s sake. ”(Seitz)!—A sincere and honest preacher will not hesitate to speak boldly from the fulness of his heart whatever he thinks may be useful to his fellow men.
2 Corinthians 3:13-16. It is not uncommon for those to become hardened in heart (and this is nothing but one kind of blindness, or at least of unsusceptibilty) who are ignorantly familiar with God’s Word, but are obstinately set upon their own way and make use of that word only for a pretext.
2 Corinthians 3:17-18. Turning to the Lord is turning to Him who gives the Spirit. He secures to us the righteousness which the law demands, and enables us to serve God under a free dispensation of the Spirit. This is spiritual freedom, seeing every thing without a covering, and coming boldly to a throne of grace. We look with an uncovered face upon the glory of the Lord in the Gospel as in a mirror, and we convey the image which thus falls upon our hearts to our fellow men, that their eyes also may be opened, and their hearts may be won for Him.—The lustre of Moses’ face was liable to fade away and cease forever, but our glory advances from one degree to another, until that shall appear which we shall be, when we see our Lord as He is.
Heubner, 2 Corinthians 3:15 : A perusal of the Scriptures without intellectual energy or susceptible hearts can do no one any good. And yet even many nominal Christians may unhappily fancy that they are models of virtue; and from that moment the true Christ, who is our only available righteousness, is under a veil. The very law which should teach them their poverty and drive them to Christ and His righteousness, serves only to make them fancy themselves rich and able to get along without Christ.
2 Corinthians 3:16 : Believe in Christ, and then the soul and the whole Bible will be full of light.
2 Corinthians 3:17 : The same Christ, in whom the Spirit dwells, must bestow that Spirit, upon men. There can be no Spirit without Him. He alone can free us from the fetters of error and delusion, and then we shall know what a free faith, a free will and a free enjoyment and love are. True freedom is wherever a man is not hampered by selfishness, i. e., by his own opinions and purposes, and when Christ has the supreme control of his whole being.
2 Corinthians 3:18 : Has thy soul the features of Christ: truth, love, meekness, fidelity (Matthew 11:29)? The looking upon Christ has this power, because the image which the Gospel presents of Him is spiritual and quickening. The Spirit comes from Christ.
W. F. Besser, 2 Corinthians 3:12 : The evangelical minister’s joy is the dawn of an eternal day begun in time. It is the joy of our Lord, the faithful Witness from the bosom of the Father, showing us plainly of the Father (John 16:25).
2 Corinthians 3:14 : God often gives up (Romans 9:18) those who are obstinate and disobedient to be hardened and blinded by the preaching of the same word whose softening and enlightening influence they had resisted. The law will be a school-master to bring those to Christ (Galatians 3:24) who commit themselves to its discipline, and never think of blunting the point of its deadly letter by their self-righteous performances; but it will only harden those whose perverted and carnal minds fancy that they are righteous before God, because they externally keep His commandments and go through certain forms of worship. It depends not so much upon the kind of Scripture which we read, as upon the manner in which we read it, whether it shall be unmeaning and sealed to us.
2 Corinthians 3:15 : Even to the present hour God is punishing the sins of the wicked children of wicked ancestors with the veil which Moses put upon his face. The heart’s covering is woven out of those delusions into which the natural man so often falls with respect to the merit of free will and the goodness of merely outward works.
2 Corinthians 3:16 : It is only “in Thy light that we see light” (Psalms 36:10); for the glory of Moses and the prophets has not been uncovered even by the appearance of the true Light Himself. It is not in the light of common sense nor the light of philosophical schools, says Hamann, that we see light, but only in the light of the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:17 : The Lord is wherever the Spirit converts, enlightens and quickens the hearts of men. This is in the Church of the New Testament, where He Himself dwells by His word and Spirit, and where He has declared that He is to be found, And yet where the Spirit of the Lord is, is freedom (John 8:36; Romans 8:15) from every legal letter which kills and condemns, or obliges and compels any one.
2 Corinthians 3:18 : We look upon the Lord’s glory with uncovered faces: the covering upon our hearts has been removed, for we see ourselves, sinful and condemned as we are in the flesh; and then the covering has been removed from before the Divine heart, for we now see Him, our gracious God and merciful Father, as He is in Christ. However many of us there may be who with uncovered faces behold the glory of the Lord, we shall all be changed into the single image of our common Lord, although its manifold glories are shed forth in separate features from the various members of His general Church; and its collected radiance, like the seven-fold colors of the rainbow, are given forth, not from any single Christian, but from the whole collected body of Christ.
[Whitby has given us six particulars in which the Apostle presents the superiority of the Gospel to the law (in substance) as follows: “1. Sinai’s glory only made the people afraid, the Gospel’s gives confidence and joy; 2. Moses gave only a letter which killed, the Gospel gives spirit and life; 3. Moses’ glory diminished and finally vanished forever, but the glory of the Gospel increases and has no end; 4. The law sought reserves under many shadows and ceremonies, the Gospel has but few fixed forms and seeks only a complete display of its truths and spirit; 5. The law could not remove the veil from men’s hearts, the Gospel gives us all open faces; 6. Israel looked only upon Moses’ radiance, Christians look directly upon a glorified God-Man, whose lustres transform them into His own likeness. Stanley’s beautiful summary of the Apostle’s imagery in this chapter, though slightly affected by his peculiar interpretation of 2 Corinthians 3:16, is yet worth transcribing (much abridged). We have: 1. The commendatory epistle, written on the Apostle’s heart; and, 2. the same written on the hearts of the Corinthians. 3. The contrast between this Epistle of the Spirit on the heart, and the lifeless engraving upon the Sinaitic stones. 4. The grand figure of Moses with his face irradiated by Divine glories. 5. The same, but veiled, to hide its fading splendors, and surrounded by a multitude of veiled figures with eyes turned upon him. 6. The same, but unveiled, and entering the Divine presence with more than rekindled radiance; and 7. The same figure multiplied in the Apostle and his brethren, with unveiled faces turned toward Christ, whose light transfigures them into glorious images of Himself.”]
2 Corinthians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 3:13.—Rec. has ἐαυτοῦ; but the best authorities have αὐτοῦ. [Since our author wrote, the authority of Sin. has been added to that of D. K., and Chrysost., and Theodt., (Osiander, Bloomf.), in favor of ἑαυτοῦ. A. B. C. F. L., 4 cursives, one MS. of Chrys., Damasc., Theophyl. and Oecum., (Lachm., Tisch., Alf., Meyer, Words.), are for αὐτοῦ. D. (1st Cor.) and F. omit τὸ before μὴ.]
2 Corinthians 3:14; 2 Corinthians 3:14.—The best authorities insert ἡμέρας. [Omitted as superfluous, comp. 2 Corinthians 3:15. D. E. F. G. Chrys. (Ital. Vulg. etc. have in) instead of ετὶ have ἐν. Ὅτι in Stephens and Griesb. is written ὅ τι, and it is translated in the old Ital. and Vulg. quoniam; Wyclif.: “for it is avoided in Christ;” Rheims (in parenth.): “because in Christ it is made voide.”]
2 Corinthians 3:15; 2 Corinthians 3:15.—Lachm. [Alford] following excellent authorities [A. B. C. Sin. et al.] has ἅν . But some [D. E.] have the subjunctive ἀναγινώσκηται without ἅν; and others have the Indicative—κεται with the ἅν. The first syllable of ἅναγιν. was probably written first by mistake twice; then the verb was made to agree with it in the subjunctive, and sometimes it remained so when the ἅν was erased, it being looked upon as governed still by the ἡνίκα (Meyer).
2 Corinthians 3:17; 2 Corinthians 3:17.—Rec. has ἐκεῖ before ἐλευθερία contrary to the oldest and best MSS. [A. B. C. D. (1st Cor.), Sinait, (1 Cor.), the Copt, version, and Cyril and Nyssa. Lachm., Tisch. and Alford reject it, but Griesb. inserted it on the authority of D. (2d and 3d Cor.) E. F. G. K. L. Sinait. (3d Cor.) Goth and Syr. versions and most of the Greek Fathers]. It was inserted according to the analogy of Matthew 18:20; Matthew 24:28; James 3:16, et al. But Paul does not commonly use it after οὗ, Comp. Romans 4:15; Romans 5:20.
[Without resorting to the explanation that Paul was here allegorizing to such an extent as to be inconsistent with the literal account in Exodus 34:29-35, we have only to give a correct translation of the original Hebrew of that account to get clear of all difficulties. Such a correct translation was given by the Septuagint, which was evidently used by Paul, for he has in every corresponding place of our passage, used the very words of that version (comp. Wordsworth). According to the history in Exodus, Moses came down from the mountain with his face irradiated; and when the people shrunk from him, he put over his face a veil (either the Kcnaa, which covered the whole head and was in subsequent times worn by persons of eminence, as by Mahomet, Mokanna and others, or the Letham, which concealed only the face, comp. Rosenmueller), at first, to relieve their fears, but afterwards, in his ordinary intercourse with them (Exodus 34:34-35) to conceal from them the termination (τέλος) of the radiance, or its cessation until he went again into the Divine presence. Our English version translates the three first Hebrew words of Exodus 34:33 thus: “And till Moses had done speaking;” and other Protestant versions render the verb in the last part of the verse in a Pluperfect sense, and translate: “he had put on a veil.” This makes the historian say that Moses did not put on the veil until he had ceased speaking to the people, and that he resumed it when he reëntered the Divine presence, which is in direct contradiction to Paul’ view. The true rendering of the Hebrew and the Sept. is: “and when he had made an end (Piel) of speaking with them, he put a veil on his face.” The Vulgate is correct in its rendering of this verse (impletisque sermonibus, posuit velamen super facicm suam), but a confusion is thrown upon the whole by its strange mistake in translating קָרַן (a denominative verb, signifying to emit rays, from קֶרֶן a horn) as if it signified, to have horns (ignorabat quod cornuta esset facies sua). Paul’s use of this incident as an illustration (not an allegory) of the people’s, inability to endure the full glory of Divine truth and the consequent veiling of that truth under the types and shadows of the Old Dispensation, is perfectly natural. But as Clemens Alex. remarks, this veil was simply against the reading of the Old Testament while the heart remained rude and unsusceptible, and not κατὰ τὴν πρὸς τὸν Κύριον ἐπιστροφήν, i. e., not against those who were inclined to see Christ in the Gospel, and to return to that Lord who was concealed behind that veil. Stanley in Comm. and in his Lectt. on the Jewish Church 1st series, p.72, and in his article on Moses in Smith’s Dict. Also Hodge on Corr. and Rosenmueller on Exodus 34:29-35].
[Of the three explanations given of μὴ . that of Luther and our Eng. version is now universally given up by all critical scholars for want of authority for its reading. That of our author (“the veil remains untaken away because it (the veil) is removed (only) by Christ”) is adopted by most of the ancient expositors, de Wette, Neander, Wordsworth and Hodge, but is weakened by the awkwardness of saying that the κάλυμμα is μὴ , by this transitive participle having no object, by κατ ργ. being used three times (2 Corinthians 3:7; 2 Corinthians 3:11; 2 Corinthians 3:13) with reference to the Old Covenant, and by the fact that it is not the veil but the dispensation which the Apostle is saying was abolished by Christ. On the other hand the third explanation (“the veil remains not taken away in the reading of the Old Covenant, it not being unveiled to them that it (the Old Covenant) is, done away in Christ”) is adopted by Chrysostom, Meyer, Bloomfield, Osiander, Conybeare. Alford and Stanley, makes a natural use of ἀνακαλ. since the end of the O. T. was the very thing which was under a veil; makes good sense; and has only the difficulty of the absolute participle, but is quite consistent with the symbolism of the entire section. Comp. especially Stanley and Hodge.
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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 3". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26