Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 12

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New TestamentRobertson's Word Pictures

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Verse 1

I must needs glory (καυχασθα δε). This is the reading of B L Latin Syriac, but Aleph D Bohairic have δε while K M read δη. The first is probably correct. He must go on with the glorying already begun, foolish as it is, though it is not expedient (ου συμφερον).

Visions (οπτασιας). Late word from οπταζω. See on Luke 1:22; Acts 26:19.

Revelations of the Lord (αποκαλυψεις Κυριου). Unveilings (from αποκαλυπτω as in Revelation 1:1). See on 2 Thessalonians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 14:26. Paul had both repeated visions of Christ (Acts 9:3; Acts 16:9; Acts 18:9; Acts 22:17; Acts 27:23) and revelations. He claimed to speak by direct revelation (1 Corinthians 11:23; 1 Corinthians 15:3; Galatians 1:12; Ephesians 3:3, etc.).

Verse 2

I know a man (οιδα ανθρωπον). Paul singles out one incident of ecstasy in his own experience that he declines to describe. He alludes to it in this indirect way as if it were some other personality.

Fourteen years ago (προ ετων δεκατεσσαρων). Idiomatic way of putting it, the preposition προ (before) before the date (Robertson, Grammar, p. 621f.) as in John 12:1. The date was probably while Paul was at Tarsus (Acts 9:30; Acts 11:25). We have no details of that period.

Caught up (αρπαγεντα). Second aorist passive participle of αρπαζω, to seize (see on Matthew 11:12).

Even to the third heaven (εω τριτου ουρανου). It is unlikely that Paul alludes to the idea of seven heavens held by some Jews (Test. of the Twelve Pat._, Levi ii. iii.). He seems to mean the highest heaven where God is (Plummer).

Verse 3

I do not know (ουκ οιδα). Paul declines to pass on his precise condition in this trance. We had best leave it as he has told it.

Verse 4

Into Paradise (εις παραδεισον). See on Luke 23:43 for this interesting word. Paul apparently uses paradise as the equivalent of the third heaven in verse 2 Corinthians 12:2. Some Jews (Book of the Secrets of Enoch, chapter viii) make Paradise in the third heaven. The rabbis had various ideas (two heavens, three, seven). We need not commit Paul to any "celestial gradation" (Vincent).

Unspeakable words (αρρητα ρηματα). Old verbal adjective (α privative, ρητος from ρεω), only here in N.T.

Not lawful (ουκ εξον). Copula εστιν omitted. Hence Paul does

not give these words.

Verse 5

But on mine own behalf (υπερ δε εμαυτου). As if there were two Pauls. In a sense there were. He will only glory in the things mentioned above, the things of his weaknesses (2 Corinthians 11:30).

Verse 6

I shall not be foolish (ουκ εσομα αφρων). Apparent contradiction to 2 Corinthians 11:1; 2 Corinthians 11:16. But he is here speaking of the Paul "caught up" in case he should tell the things heard (condition of the third class, εαν and first aorist subjunctive θελησω).

Of me (εις εμε). To my credit, almost like dative (cf. εν εμο in 1 Corinthians 14:11).

Verse 7

By reason of the exceeding greatness (τη υπερβολη). Instrumental case, "by the excess."

That I should not be exalted overmuch (ινα μη υπεραιρωμα). Present passive subjunctive in final clause of υπεραιρω, old verb to lift up beyond, only here in N.T. This clause is repeated at the end of the sentence.

A thorn in the flesh (σκολοπς τη σαρκ). This old word is used for splinter, stake, thorn. In the papyri and inscriptions examples occur both for splinter and thorn as the meaning. In the LXX it is usually thorn. The case of τη σαρκ can be either locative (in) or dative (for). What was it? Certainly it was some physical malady that persisted. All sorts of theories are held (malaria, eye-trouble, epilepsy, insomnia, migraine or sick-headache, etc.). It is a blessing to the rest of us that we do not know the particular affliction that so beset Paul. Each of us has some such splinter or thorn in the flesh, perhaps several at once.

Messenger of Satan (αγγελος Σατανα). Angel of Satan, the affliction personified.

Buffet (κολαφιζη). See on Matthew 26:67; 1 Corinthians 4:11 for this late and rare word from κολαφος, fist. The messenger of Satan kept slapping Paul in the face and Paul now sees that it was God's will for it to be so.

Verse 8

Concerning this thing (υπερ τουτου). More likely, "concerning this messenger of Satan."

That it might depart from me (ινα αποστη αφ' εμου). Second aorist active (intransitive) subjunctive of αφιστημ in final clause, "that he stand off from me for good."

Verse 9

He hath said (ειρηκεν). Perfect active indicative, as if a final word. Paul probably still has the thorn in his flesh and needs this word of Christ.

Is sufficient (αρκε). Old word of rich meaning, perhaps kin to Latin arceo, to ward off against danger. Christ's grace suffices and abides.

Is perfected (τελειτα). Present passive indicative of τελεω, to finish. It is linear in idea. Power is continually increased as the weakness grows. See Philippians 4:13 for this same noble conception. The human weakness opens the way for more of Christ's power and grace.

Most gladly rather (ηδιστα μαλλον). Two adverbs, one superlative (ηδιστα), one comparative (μαλλον). "Rather" than ask any more (thrice already) for the removal of the thorn or splinter "most gladly will I glory in my weaknesses." Slowly Paul had learned this supreme lesson, but it will never leave him (Romans 5:2; 2 Timothy 4:6-8).

May rest upon me (επισκηνωση επ' εμε). Late and rare verb in first aorist active subjunctive with ινα (final clause), to fix a tent upon, here upon Paul himself by a bold metaphor, as if the Shechinah of the Lord was overshadowing him (cf. Luke 9:34), the power (δυναμις) of the Lord Jesus.

Verse 10

Wherefore I take pleasure (διο ευδοκω). For this noble word see on Matthew 3:17; 2 Corinthians 5:8. The enemies of Paul will have a hard time now in making Paul unhappy by persecutions even unto death (Philippians 1:20-26). He is not courting martyrdom, but he does not fear it or anything that is "for Christ's sake" (υπερ Χριστου).

For when (οταν γαρ). "For whenever," indefinite time.

Then I am strong (τοτε δυνατος ειμ). At that very time, but not in myself, but in the fresh access of power from Christ for the emergency.

Verse 11

I am become foolish (γεγονα αφρων). Perfect active indicative of γινομα. In spite of what he said in verse 2 Corinthians 12:6 that he would not be foolish if he gloried in the other Paul. But he feels that he has dropped back to the mood of 2 Corinthians 11:1; 2 Corinthians 11:16. He has been swept on by the memory of the ecstasy.

For I ought to have been commended by you (εγω γαρ ωφειλον υφ' υμων συνιστασθα). Explanation of "ye compelled me." Imperfect active ωφειλον of οφειλω, to be under obligation, and the tense here expresses an unfulfilled obligation about the present. But συνιστασθα is present passive infinitive, not aorist or perfect passive. He literally means, "I ought now to be commended by you" instead of having to glorify myself. He repeats his boast already made (2 Corinthians 11:5), that he is no whit behind "the super-extra apostles" (the Judaizers), "though I am nothing" (ε κα ουδεν ειμ). Even boasting himself against those false apostles causes a reaction of feeling that he has to express (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:9; 1 Timothy 1:15).

Verse 12

Of an apostle (του αποστολου). "Of the apostle" (definite article). Note the three words here for miracles wrought by Paul (σημεια, signs, τερατα, wonders, δυναμεις, powers or miracles) as in Hebrews 2:4.

Verse 13

Wherein ye were made inferior (ο ησσωθητε). First aorist passive indicative of ησσοομα, the text of Aleph B D instead of the usual ηττηθητε from the common ητταομα to be inferior or less from the comparative ηττων. See ησσων in verse 2 Corinthians 12:15. Hο is the neuter accusative with the passive verb (Robertson, Grammar, p. 479).

Forgive me this wrong (χαρισασθε μο την αδικιαν ταυτην). Consummate irony to the stingy element in this church (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:9).

Verse 14

Third time I am ready to come (τριτον τουτο ετοιμως εχω). Had he been already twice or only once? He had changed his plans once when he did not go (2 Corinthians 1:15). He will not change his plans now. This looks as if he had only been once (that in 2 Corinthians 12:18). Note the third use of καταναρκαω (2 Corinthians 11:9; 2 Corinthians 12:13; 2 Corinthians 12:14). They need not be apprehensive. He will be as financially independent of them as before. "I shall not sponge on you."

Not yours, but you (ου τα υμων, αλλα υμας). The motto of every real preacher.

To lay up (θησαυριζειν). For this use of the verb see 1 Corinthians 16:2 (Matthew 6:19-21; James 5:3).

Verse 15

I will most gladly spend and be spent (ηδιστα δαπανησω κα εκδαπανηθησομα). Both future active of old verb δαπαναω (Mark 5:26) to spend money, time, energy, strength and the future passive of εκδαπαναω, late compound to spend utterly, to spend out, (εκ-), to spend wholly. Only here in N.T.

Verse 16

I did not myself burden you (εγω ου κατεβαρησα υμας). First aorist active of late verb καταβαρεω, to press a burden down on one. Only here in N.T.

Crafty (πανουργος). Old word from παν, all, and εργο, to do anything (good or bad). Good sense is skilful, bad sense cunning. Only here in N.T. and Paul is quoting the word from his enemies.

With guile (δολω). Instrumental case of δολος, bait to catch fish with. The enemies of Paul said that he was raising this big collection for himself. Moffatt has done well to put these charges in quotation marks to make it plain to readers that Paul is ironical.

Verse 17

Did I take advantage (επλεονεκτησα). Paul goes right to the point without hedging. For this verb from πλεον and εχω, to have more, see on 2 Corinthians 2:11; 2 Corinthians 7:2.

By any one of them (τινα--δι' αυτου). An anacoluthon for τινα is left in the accusative without a verb and δι' αυτου takes up the idea, "as to any one by him."

Whom (ων). The genitive relative is attracted from the accusative ους into the case of the unexpressed antecedent τουτον). Μη expects the negative answer as does μητ in 2 Corinthians 12:18.

Verse 18

The brother (τον αδελφον). Probably the brother of Titus (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:18).

Did Titus take advantage of you? (μητ επλεονεκτησεν υμας Τιτοσ?). That puts the issue squarely.

By the same Spirit (τω αυτω πνευματ). That translation refers to the Holy Spirit and makes the case instrumental. The locative case, "in the same spirit," makes it mean that Paul's attitude is the same as that of Titus and most likely is correct, for "in the same steps" (τοις αυτοις ιχνεσιν) is in locative case.

Verse 19

Ye think all this time (παλα δοκειτε). Progressive present indicative, "for a long time ye have been thinking."

We are excusing ourselves (απολογουμεθα). He is not just apologizing, but is in deadly earnest, as they will find out when he comes.

Verse 20

Lest by any means, when I come, I should find you not such as I would (μη πως ελθων ουχ οιους θελω ευρω υμας). An idiomatic construction after the verb of fearing (φοβουμα) with μη πως as the conjunction and with ουχ as the negative of the verb ευρω (second aorist active subjunctive of ευρισκω), μη the conjunction, ουχ the negative. See Robertson, Grammar, p. 995.

And I be found (καγω ευρεθω). Same construction with first aorist passive subjunctive.

Such as ye would not (οιον ου θελετε). Neat change in voice just before and position of the negative here.

Lest by any means (μη πως). Still further negative purpose by repeating the conjunction. With graphic pen pictures Paul describes what had been going on against him during his long absence.

Backbitings (καταλαλια). Late and rare word. In N.T. only here and 1 Peter 2:1. If it only existed nowhere else!

Whisperings (ψιθυρισμο). Late word from ψιθυριζω, to whisper into one's ear. An onomatopoetic word for the sibilant murmur of a snake charmer (Ecclesiastes 10:11). Only here in N.T.

Swellings (φυσιωσεις). From φυσιοω, to swell up, late word only here and in ecclesiastical writers. Did Paul make up the word for the occasion? See on 1 Corinthians 4:6 for verb.

Tumults (ακαταστασια). See on 2 Corinthians 6:5.

Verse 21

When I come again (παλιν ελθοντος μου). Genitive absolute. Paul assumes it as true.

Lest my God humble me (μη ταπεινωση με ο θεος μου). Negative final clause (μη and first aorist active subjunctive), going back to φοβουμα in 2 Corinthians 12:20. He means a public humiliation as his fear. The conduct of the church had been a real humiliation whether he refers to a previous visit or not.

That have sinned heretofore (των προημαρτηκοτων). Genitive plural of the articular perfect active participle of προαμαρτανω to emphasize continuance of their sinful state as opposed to μη μετανοησαντων (did not repent) in the aorist tense.

Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 12". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.