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Bible Commentaries

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary
2 Corinthians 5

 

 

Verse 1

1.] For (gives the reason of ch. 2 Corinthians 4:17,—principally of the emphatic words of that verse καθʼ ὑπερβολὴν εἰς ὑπερβ.,—shewing how it is that so wonderful a process takes place) we know (as in ch. 2 Corinthians 4:14,—are convinced, as a sure matter of hope) that if (‘supposing;’—not = κἄν, ‘etiamsi,’ but indefinite and doubtful: if this delivering to death continually should end in veritable death. The case is hypothetical, because many will be glorified without the κατάλυσις taking place: see 1 Corinthians 15:51; 1 Corinthians 15:53) our earthly tabernacle-dwelling ( τοῦ σκήνους is gen. of apposition. The similitude is not derived from the wandering of the Israelites in the wilderness, nor from the tabernacle, but is a common one with Greek writers, see examples in Wetstein. “The whole passage is expressed through the double figure of a house or tent, and a garment. The explanation of this abrupt transition from one to the other may be found in the image which, both from his occupation and his birthplace, would naturally occur to the Apostle,—the tent of Cilician hair-cloth, which might almost equally suggest the idea of a habitation and of a vesture.” Stanley. Chrys. observes: εἰπὼν οἰκίαν σκήνους, καὶ τὸ εὐδιάλυτον καὶ πρόσκαιρον δείξας ἐντεῦθεν, ἀντέθηκε τὴν αἰωνίαν· τὸ γὰρ τῆς σκηνῆς ὄνομα τὸ πρόσκαιρον πολλάκις δείκνυσι. Hom. x. p. 506) were dissolved (‘mite verbum,’ Bengel: i.e. ‘taken down,’ ‘done away with:’ but ‘dissolved,’ as well as the vulg. ‘dissolvatur,’ is right), we have in the heavens (as Meyer rightly remarks, the present is used of the time at which the dissolution shall have taken place. But even then the dead have it not in actual possession, but only prepared by God for them against the appearing of the Lord: and therefore they are said to have it in the heavens. Chrys., &c., Beza, Grot., al., join ἐν τοῖς οὐρ. with οἰκίαν, which can hardly be: it would be either ἐπουράνιον or ἐξ οὐρανοῦ. The E. V. according to the present punctuation, yields no sense: ‘not made with hands, eternal in the heavens’) a building (no longer a σκῆνος) from God (‘in an especial manner prepared by God,’ ‘pure from God’s hands:’ not as contrasted with our earthly body, which, see 1 Corinthians 12:18; 1 Corinthians 12:24, is also from God), a dwelling not made with hands (here again, not as contrasted with the fleshly body, for that too is ἀχειροποίητος, but with other οἰκίαι, which are χειροποίητοι. Remember again the Apostle’s occupation of a tent-maker), eternal. A difficulty has been raised by some Commentators respecting the intermediate disembodied state,—how the Apostle here regards it, or whether he regards it at all. But none need be raised. The οἰκία which in this verse is said, at the time of dissolution, to be ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς, is, when we put it on, in the next verse, our οἰκητήριον τὸ ἐξ οὐρανοῦ. Thus the intermediate state, though lightly passed over, as not belonging to the subject, is evidently in the mind of St. Paul. Some Commentators, Photius, Anselm, Thomas Aq. (in Estius), Wolf, Rosenm., al., understand these words themselves ( οἰκ. ἀχειρ. αἰών. ἐν τ. οὐρ.) of the intermediate state of absence from the body; Usteri and Flatt, of an immediate glorified body in heaven, to be united with the body of the resurrection. Calvin hesitates: “Incertum est, an significet statum beatæ immortalitatis, qui post mortem fideles manet, an vero corpus incorruptibile et gloriosum, quale post resurrectionem erit. In utrovis sensu nihil est incommodi: quanquam malo ita accipere, ut initium hujus ædificii sit beatus animæ status post mortem: consummatio autem sit gloria ultimæ resurrectionis.” But if this be so, (1) the parallel will not hold, between the οἰκία in one case, and the οἰκία in the other,—and (2) the language of 2 Corinthians 5:2 is against it, see below.


Verses 1-10

1–10.] Further specification of the hope before spoken of, as consisting in anticipation of an eternity of glory after this life, in the resurrection-body: which leads him evermore to strive to be found well pleasing to the Lord at His coming: seeing that all shall then receive the things done in the body.


Verse 2

2.] For also (our knowledge, that we possess such a building of God, even in case of our body being dissolved, is testified by the earnest desire which we have, to put on that new body without such dissolution taking place. See the similar argument in Romans 8:18-19) in this (viz. σκήνει, as Beza, Meyer, Olsh., al. The rendering ἐν τούτῳ, ‘wherefore,’—some referring it to the foregoing,—‘propter hoc quod dictum est,’ Est., some to the following,—is inconsistent with ὄντες ἐν τῷ σκήνει, which is parallel with it, 2 Corinthians 5:4. The stress is not necessarily on ἐν, ‘in this,’ as contrasted with ‘out of this,’ as Meyer, who joins καί with ἐν τούτῳ; but see above) we groan (see Romans 8:23), longing (i.e. because we desire, the reason of στενάζομεν. ἐπιποθ., not ardently desire: the prep. does not intensify, but denotes the direction of the wish, as ἀνέμου μὴ προσεῶντος, Acts 27:7) to put on over this (‘superinduere:’ viz. by being alive at the day of Christ, and not dissolved as in 2 Corinthians 5:1 :—see on 2 Corinthians 5:4 below.

The similitude is slightly changed: the house is now to be put on, as an outer garment, over the fleshly body) our dwelling-place (‘ οἰκία est quiddam magis absolutum,— οἰκητήριον, domicilium, respicit incolam:’ Bengel. So Eur. Orest. 1113,— ὥσθʼ ἑλλὰς αὐτῇ σμικρὸν οἰκητήριον) from heaven (i.e. = ἐκ θεοῦ, 2 Corinthians 5:1, but treated now as if brought with the Lord at His coming, and put upon us who are alive and remain then.

‘Itaque,’ says Bengel, ‘hoc domicilium non est cœlum ipsum’):


Verse 3

3.] seeing that ( εἴ γε (see var. readd.) is used ‘de re, quæ jure sumta creditur:’ εἴπερ, when ‘in incerto relinquitur, utrum jure an injuria sumatur.’ Herm. ad Viger., p. 834. So Xen. Mem. ii. 17, ἀλλὰ γάρ, ὦ σ., οἱ εἰς τὴν βασιλικὴν τέχνην παιδευόμενοι, ἢν δοκεῖς μοι σὺ νομίζειν εὐδαιμονίαν εἶναι, τί διαφέρουσι τῶν ἐξ ἀνάγκης κακοπαθούντων, εἴ γε πεινήσουσι κ. διψή σουσι, κ. τ. λ.,—‘if they are to hunger and thirst, &c.’ and for εἴπερ, Æsch. Ag. 29 f. εἴπερ ἰλίου πόλις ἑάλωκεν, ὡς ὁ φρυκτὸς ἀγγέλλων πρέπει, ‘if, that is, the city, &c.’) we shall really ( καί, ‘in very truth:’ so Soph. Antig. 766, ἄμφω γὰρ αὐτὰ καὶ κατακτεῖναι νοεῖς; ‘dost thou intend verily to kill them both?’ and Æsch. Sept. Theb. 810, ἐκεῖθι κἦλθον; ‘have they really come to that?’ See more examples in Hartung, Partikellehre, i. 132) be found (shall prove to be) clothed (‘having put on clothing,’ viz. a body), not naked (without a body—“ ἐνδυς., οὐ γυμν., as γάλα, οὐ βρῶμα, 1 Corinthians 3:2 and often, cf. 2 Corinthians 5:7.” Meyer. See Stanley’s note). The verse asserts strongly, with a view to substantiate and explain 2 Corinthians 5:2, the truth of the resurrection or glorified body; and, with Meyer, I see in it a reference to the deniers of the resurrection, whom the Apostle combated in 1 Corinthians 15.: its sense being this: “For I do assert again, that we shall in that day prove to be clothed with a body, and not disembodied spirits.”

Several other renderings have been given:—(1) ‘Si nos iste dies deprehendet cum corpore, non exutos a corpore,—si erimus inter mutandos, non inter mortuos,’ Grot.: Estius, Bengel, Conyb., al. To this there are three objections,—that εἴ γε should be εἴ περ (the force of this objection is however much weakened by the amount of authority which can be adduced for εἴπερ),—that καί is not rendered at all,—and that ἐνδυσάμενοι, the aor. mid., should be ἐνδεδυμένοι, the perf. pass. (2) The same objections apply to Billroth’s rendering, ‘If we, having been once clothed (with the earthly body), shall not be found naked’ (without the body). (3) De Wette renders: ‘seeing that when we are also (really) clothed, we shall not be found naked:’ i.e. ‘setting down for certain as we do, that that heavenly dwelling will also be a body.’ To this Meyer rightly objects, that it is open to the difficulty of making ἔνδυσις and γυμνότης, and that in the very sense in which they are opposites, to co-exist;—no clothing but that of a body is thought of here, or else οὐ σώματος γυμνοί must have been expressed. (4) This latter objection applies to the rendering of Chrys., Theodoret, Theophyl., Œcum., al., who take ἐνδυσάμενοι = σῶμα ἄφθαρτον λαβόντες, and γυμνοί to mean γυμνοὶ δόξης. Similarly Anselm explains γυμνοί, ‘nudi Christo;’ Pelagius, Hunnius, and Baldwin, ‘vacui fide:’ Erasm. Paraphr. ‘si tamen hoc exuti corpore non omnino nudi reperiamur, sed ex bonæ vitæ fiducia spe immortalitatis amicti:’ in part too Calvin,—restricting it however to the faithful only,—‘if at least we, having put on Christ in this life, shall not be found naked then.’ Olshausen too takes οὐ γυμνοί as an expansion of ἐνδυσάμενοι, ‘provided that we shall be found clothed with the robe of righteousness, not denuded of it.’ Of all these we may say, that if the Apostle had meant by γυμνοί to hint at any other kind of γυμνότης than that which the similitude obviously implies, he would have certainly indicated it. (5) The rendering of εἰutinam,’ ‘utinam etiam induti, non nudi reperiamur!’ as Knatchbull and Homberg, need hardly be refuted. (6) Another class of renderings arise from the reading ἐκ δυσάμενοι in a few cursives, which in connexion with εἴπερ was evidently adopted in consequence of the views of expositors. It stood as a conditional sentence,—‘provided, that is, that’ … and in the idea that it referred to the time after putting off the mortal body, ἐν was altered to ἐκ.

For much of the reference to opinions in this note I am indebted to Meyer and De Wette.


Verse 4

4.] Confirmation and explanation of 2 Corinthians 5:2. For also (a reason, why we ἐπιποθοῦμεν ἐπενδύσασθαι.… as in ver.2) we who are in the tabernacle (before spoken of, i.e. of the body), groan, being burdened (not by troubles and sufferings, nor by the body itself, which would be directly opposite to the sense: but for the reason which follows), because ( ἐφʼ as in ref. Rom.) we are not willing to divest ourselves (of it), but to put on (that other) over it, that our mortal part may (not, die, but) be swallowed up by life (absorbed in and transmuted by that glorious principle of life which our new clothing shall superinduce upon us). The feeling expressed in these verses was one most natural to those who, as the Apostles, regarded the coming of the Lord as near, and conceived the possibility of their living to behold it. It was no terror of death as to its consequences—but a natural reluctance to undergo the mere act of death as such, when it was within possibility that this mortal body might be superseded by the immortal one, without it.


Verse 5

5.] This great end, the καταποθῆναι τὸ θνητὸν ὑπὸ τῆς ζωῆς, is justified as the object of the Apostle’s fervent wish, seeing that it is for this very end, that this may ultimately be accomplished, that God has wrought us (see below) and given us the pledge of the Spirit;—But (and this my wish has reason: for) He who wrought us out (prepared us, by redemption, justification, sanctification, which are the qualifications for glory) unto this very purpose (viz. that last mentioned— τὸ καταποθῆναι τὸ θνητὸν ἡμῶν ὑπὸ τ. ζωῆς,—not τὸ ἐπενδύσασθαι, a mere accident of that glorious absorption: see below) is God, who gave unto us (a sign that our preparation is of Him: ‘quippe qui dederit’.…) the earnest (reff. and note) of (gen. of apposition) the (Holy) Spirit. The Apostle in this verse, is no longer treating exclusively of his own wish for the more summary swallowing up of the mortal by the glorified, but is shewing that the end itself, which he individually, or in common with others then living, wishes accomplished in this particular form of ἐπενδύσασθαι, is, under whatever form brought about, that for which all the preparation, by grace, of Christians, is carried on, and to which the earnest of the Spirit points forward. Meyer would limit this verse entirely to the wish expressed in the last: but he is certainly wrong: for it forms a note of transition to θαῤῥοῦντες οὖν πάντοτε in the next: see below.


Verses 6-8

6–8.] He returns to the confidence expressed in 2 Corinthians 5:1; that however this may be, whether this wish is to be fulfilled or not, he is prepared to accept the alternative of being denuded of the body, seeing that it will bring with it a translation to the presence of the Lord.

Being confident then (because it is God’s express purpose to bring us to glory, as in last verse) always (either under all trials: or, always, whether this hope of ἐπενδύσασθαι or the fear of the other alternative, be before us,—which latter I prefer), and knowing (not as the ground of our confidence, as Calv., al., nor as an exception to it, ‘though we know,’ as Est., Olsh., al.,—but correlative with it, and the ground of the εὐδοκοῦμεν below) that while in our home in the body, we are absent from [our home in] the Lord (the similitude of the body as our οἰκία being still kept up: see similar sentiments, respecting our being wanderers and strangers from our heavenly home while dwelling in the body, Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 11:13; Hebrews 13:14),—for (proof of our ἐκδημία ἀπὸ τ. κυρ.) we walk (the usual figurative sense,—‘go on our Christian course,’—not literal, as of pilgrims) by means of (not ‘in a state of,’ nor ‘through,’ as the element through which our life moves, Meyer; who is thereby necessitated to interpret the two prepositions differently, see below) faith, not by means of appearance ( εἶδος cannot possibly be subjective, as rendered in E. V. and by many Commentators; see reff.—i.e. ‘faith, not the actual appearance of heavenly things themselves, is the means whereby we hold on our way,’ a sure sign that we are absent from those heavenly things),—notwithstanding (I say) (he resumes the θαῤῥοῦντες, which was apparently at first intended to belong to εὐδοκοῦμεν,—by the indicative, inserting the δέ because the last clause seemed something like a dash to that confidence) we are confident, and are well pleased rather to go from (out of) four home in] the body and come to our home with the Lord: i.e. ‘if (as in 2 Corinthians 5:1) a dissolution of the body be imminent,—even that, though not according to our wish, does not destroy our confidence: for so sensible are we that dwelling in the body is a state of banishment from the Lord, that we prefer to it even the alternative of dissolution, bringing us, as it will, into His presence.’

Meyer regards ἐκδημ. and ἐνδημ. as equivalent to the putting off of the mortal (but how?) and putting on the immortal body at the coming of the Lord:—but surely by this the whole sense is destroyed. The Apostle, it seems to me, carefully chooses the words, new to the context, ἐκδημεῖν and ἐνδημεῖν, to avoid such an inference, and to express, as he does in Philippians 1:23, then in the actual prospect of death, that τὸ ἀναλῦσαι is equivalent to σὺν χριστῷ εἶναι: for here is no hint of the new house from heaven, only of a certain indefinite ἐνδημία πρὸς τὸν κύριον, which is all that is revealed to us, and it would seem was all that was revealed to him, of the disembodied state of the blessed. I may remark that Meyer, whose commentary on this Epistle is most able and thorough, has been misled in this passage by an endeavour to range the whole of it under the specific wish of 2 Corinthians 5:2-4.


Verse 9-10

9, 10.] Wherefore (this being so,—our confidence, in event whether of death, or of life till the coming of the Lord, being such)—it is also (besides our confidence) our aim, whether present (dwelling in the body) or absent (from the body at the time of His appearing), to be well pleasing to Him, i.e. ‘whether He find us ἐνδημ. or ἐκδημ., to meet with His approval in that day.’ That this is the sense, the next verse seems to me to shew beyond question. For there he renders a reason for the expressions, and fixes the participles as belonging to the time of His coming. But this meaning has not, that I am aware, been seen by the Commentators, and in consequence, the verse has seemed to be beset with difficulties. The ordinary rendering is represented by Chrys., p. 508, τὸζητούμενον τοῦτό ἐστι, φησίν. ἄν τε ἐκεῖ ὦμεν, ἄν τε ἐνταῦθα, κατὰ γνώμην αὐτοῦ ζῆν·—the objection to which of course is, that when there with Him, there will be no striving to be εὐάρεστοι αὐτῷ, the acceptance having taken place. Nor is De Wette’s interpretation free from objection—‘whether we live till His coming, or we die:’ because no sufficient account is given of the present participles.

Of all renderings, Meyer’s is in this place the most absurd, misled as he is by his interpretation of 2 Corinthians 5:8. He would make ἐνδημοῦντες and ἐκδ. here merely literal, the similitude being dropped:—‘whether at home, or on travel.’ But, all else aside, can he tell us where Paul’s home was, subsequently to Acts 9? For this would be necessary, though he shrinks from any ‘geographische Bestimmung.’


Verse 10

10.] For (explanation and fixing of εὐάρεστοι αὐτῷ εἶναι, as to when, and how testified) we all (and myself among the number) must be made manifest (not merely ‘appear’ = παραστῆναι [which is a most unfortunate rendering of the E. V., giving to the reader merely the idea of “appearing before” as when summoned to a magistrate], but ‘appear in our true light,’ appear as we have never done before, as in reff., where the word is used of our Lord Himself: see also 1 Corinthians 4:5) before the judgment-seat (on βῆμα, see Stanley’s note) of Christ, that each may receive (the technical word for receiving wages) the things (done) through the body (as a medium or organ of action. Meyer cites τῶν ἡδονῶν αἱ διὰ τοῦ σώματός εἰσιν, Plato, Phædo, p. 65, and αἰσθήσεις αἱ διὰ τοῦ σώματος, Phædr, p. 250), according to the things which he did (in the body), whether (it were) good, or bad (singular, as abstract). I may observe that no more definite inference must be drawn from this verse as to the place which the saints of God shall hold in the general judgment, than it warrants; viz. that they as well as others, shall be manifested and judged by Him (Matthew 25:19): when, or in company with whom, is not here so much as hinted.

I cannot pass on, without directing the student to the passage on this verse in Chrysostom’s tenth Homily, p. 510 ff., as one of the grandest extant efforts of human eloquence.


Verse 11

11.] Being then conscious of (‘no strangers to:’ so Homer freq., e.g. ἀθεμίστια εἰδώς) the fear of the Lord (not, as Chrys. and most of the ancient Commentators = τὸ φοβερὸν τ. κυρ.,—so also Beza and Estius, ‘terrorem Domini,’ and E. V., ‘the terror of the Lord;’—but as Vulg., ‘timorem Domini,’—this wholesome fear of Christ as our Judge: see reff. The expression is particularly appropriate for one who had been suspected of double dealing and insincerity: he was inwardly conscious of the principle of the fear of God guiding and leading him),—we persuade men (the stress on ἀνθρώπους, ‘it is MEN that we attempt to persuade.’

Of what? Beza, Grot., al., of the truth of Christ’s religion; win them to Christ, which however suits the rendering ‘terrorem Domini,’ better than the right one:—Chrys., Theodoret, Theophyl., ‘of our own integrity,’ and so in the main, Estius, Bengel, Olsh., De Wette,—and Meyer, though he seems to object to it, for he connects the words with the φιλοτιμία of 2 Corinthians 5:9 :—Erasm., Luther, Wolf, Hammond, al., understand πείθομεν of the endeavour to make ourselves acceptable to men; Cornel.-a-Lapide, Le Clerc, al., ‘eundem hunc timorem hominibus suademus.’ But from the context, it must have reference to ourselves; and I therefore agree with Chrys., al., as above [I may remind the English reader that there are few texts so much perverted as this one, owing to the rendering of the E. V. It is frequently understood and preached upon, as if it meant, “Knowing how terrible God is, we persuade others to fear Him:” a meaning as far as possible from the Apostle’s mind]), but to God we are already manifested (we have no need to persuade HIM of our integrity, for He knows all things);—and I hope (am confident) that we have been manifested (Meyer remarks, that ἐλπίζω in the N. T. elsewhere has only the inf. aor.; here however the inf. perfect is logically necessary. He hopes, that the manifestation is complete. Cf. Acts 27:13, δόξαντες τῆς προθέσεως κεκρατηκέναι, and Hom. Il. ο. 110, ἤδη γὰρ νῦν ἔλπομʼ ἄρηΐ γε πῆμα τετύχθαι) in your consciences also.


Verses 11-13

11–13.] Having this φιλοτιμία,—being a genuine fearer of God (see below)—he endeavours to make his plain dealing EVIDENT TO MEN, as it IS EVIDENT TO GOD. He will give the Corinthians whereof to boast concerning him in reply to his boastful adversaries: this his conduct being, whatever construction may be put on it, on behalf of God and them.


Verse 12

12.] We are not recommending ourselves again to you (see ch. 2 Corinthians 3:1), but [are] giving you an occasion for matter of boasting ( καύχημα,—not = καύχησις as De W.,—‘a source, whence matter of boasting may be derived’) on our behalf (of us, as your teachers, and to the upholding of our ministry), that ye may have it (viz. καύχημα, matter of boasting) against those who boast in face (fair outward appearance), and not in heart (i.e. in those things which they exhibit, and are outwardly = κατὰ τὴν σάρκα, ch. 2 Corinthians 11:18, not in matters which are in their hearts: implying that their hearts are indifferent about the matters of which they boast).


Verse 13

13.] For (ye have good reason to boast of me as your teacher; seeing that) whether we have been mad (there is no need to soften the meaning to ‘inordinately praise ourselves,’ as Chrys., al.; or ‘act foolishly,’ as others; or ‘ultra modum agimus,’ as Bengel, Luther:— μαίνῃ, παῦλε, was once said, Acts 26:24, and doubtless this charge was among the means taken to depreciate his influence at Corinth), it was to God (in God’s work and to His glory): [or] whether we be of sound mind, it is for you (on your behalf). ‘So that you have reason to glory in us either way; if you will ascribe to us madness, it is a holy madness, for God: if you maintain and are convinced of our sobriety, it is a soundness in your service.’

On the interpretation of Chrys. above, he explains the last clause,— ἄν τε μέτριόν τι κ. ταπεινὸν ( φθεγξώμεθα), διʼ ὑμᾶς, ἵνα μάθητε ταπεινοφρονεῖν. Hom. xi. p. 513. But he gives our interpretation also, as an alternative: μαίνεσθαί τις ἡμᾶς φησί; διὰ τὸν θεὸν τοιαῦτα μαινόμεθα.


Verse 14

14.] For (reason of his devotion under all reports and circumstances, θεῷ and ὑμῖν, as in last verse) Christ’s love (not, love to Christ, as Œc(6), Beza, al.,—but Christ’s love to men, subjective, as most Commentators; as shewn in His Death, which is the greatest proof of love, see Romans 5:6-8. Meyer remarks that the gen. of the person after ἀγάπη is with Paul always subjective,—Romans 5:5; Romans 5:8; Romans 8:35; Romans 8:39; ch. 2 Corinthians 8:24; 2 Corinthians 13:13; Ephesians 2:4; Philippians 1:9 al. (but see his own note on 2 Thessalonians 3:5, where he maintains the objective sense), whereas with John it is not always so, 1 John 5:3. Paul usually expresses love of, i.e. towards, by εἰς, Colossians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 3:12) constraineth us (a better word could not be found: the idea of συνέχω is that of forcible limitation, either in a good or a bad sense,—of confining to one object, or within certain bounds, be that one object a painful or glorious one,—those bounds the angustiæ of distress, or the course of apostolic energy, as here. ‘Constraineth us,’ generally:—limits us to one great end, and prohibits our taking into consideration any others. ‘Metaphora est in verbo constringendi: qua notatur, fieri non posse, quin, quisquis mirificum illum amorem quem testatus est nobis Christus morte sua, vere expendit et reputat, quasi ei alligatus, et arctissimo vinculo constrictus, se in illius obsequium addicat.’ Calv. The varieties of interpretation, some as Meyer, urging more the sense cohibendi, others as Chrys., that excitandi, οὐκ ἀφίησιν ἡμᾶς ἡσυχάζειν, all in fact amount to one—that of the forcible compression of his energies to one line of action),


Verses 14-19

14–19.] And his constraining motive is the love of Christ; who died for all, that all should live to Him; and accordingly the Apostle has no longer any mere knowledge or regards according to the flesh, seeing that all things are become new in Christ by means of the reconciliation effected by God in Him, of which reconciliation Paul is the minister.


Verse 15

15.] [having judged this (i.e.] because we formed this judgment, viz. at our conversion:—learned to regard this as a settled truth) that One died on behalf of all (not only, for the benefit of all, as Meyer,—but instead of all, suffered death in the root and essence of our humanity, as the second Adam. This death on behalf of all men is the absolute objective fact: that all enter not into the benefit of that Death, is owing to the non-fulfilment of the subjective condition which follows),—therefore all died (i.e. therefore, in the death of Christ, all, the all for whom He died, οἱ πάντες, died too: i.e. see below, became planted in the likeness of His death,—died to sin and to self, that they might live to Him. This was true, objectively, but not subjectively till such death to sin and self is realized in each: see Romans 6:8 ff.). The other renderings,—‘ought to die,’ as Thomas Aq., Grot., Estius, al.,—‘were under sentence of death,’ as Chrys., Theodoret, Beza, al.;—‘as good as died, Flatt;—are shewn to be erroneous by carefully noticing the construction, with or without εἰ. The verb is common to both members of the sentence; the correspondent emphatic words in the two members being (1) εἷς ὑπὲρ πάντων, (2) πάντες: ‘(One on behalf of all) died, therefore (all) died: if One died the death of (belonging to, due from) all, then all died (in and with Him).’

Meyer’s rendering of ὅτι because, can hardly be right as it would leave κρίναντας τοῦτο standing awkwardly alone. And He died for all, in order that they who live (in this life, see ἡμεῖς οἱ ζῶντες, ch. 2 Corinthians 4:11; = in sense, ‘as long as they are in this state,’ as De W.:—not, ‘those who live spiritually,’ as Beza, Flatt, which would altogether strike out the sense, for it is, that they may live spiritually, &c.: nor, ‘superstites,’ they whom He left behind at His death, ζῶντες in contrast with Him who ἀπέθανεν, as Meyer;—for, not to insist on the more general reference to all time, many to whom the Apostle was now writing were not born at the time of His Death) should no longer (now that His Death has taken place: or, as they did before they apprehended that Death as theirs,—but I prefer the former, see ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν below) live to themselves (with self as their great source and end of action, to please and to obey) but to Him that died and rose again for them ( ὑπέρ, not merely even as connected with ἐγερθέντιfor the benefit of,’ as Meyer again; but strictly ‘in the place of:’ as the Death of Christ is our death, so His Resurrection is our resurrection).


Verse 16

16.] So that (accordingly,—consistently with our judgment expressed 2 Corinthians 5:15) we (in opposition to our adversaries, the false teachers: not general, of all Christians, as De W.,—but as yet spoken, as the emphatic position of ἡμεῖς shews, of the Apostle himself (and his colleagues?)) from this time (since this great event, the Death of Christ) know no man according to (as he is in) the flesh (Meyer well remarks: “Since all are (ethically) dead, and each man is bound to live only to Christ, not to himself, our knowledge of others must be altogether independent of that which they are κατὰ σάρκα,—must not be regulated κατὰ σάρκα. And the connexion of 2 Corinthians 5:16 with 2 Corinthians 5:15 shews that we must not take κατὰ σάρκα as the subjective rule of οἴδαμεν,—so that the explanation would be, ‘according to mere human knowledge,’ ‘apart from the enlightening of the Holy Spirit,’ cf. ch. 2 Corinthians 1:17; 1 Corinthians 1:26,—but as the objective rule, cf. ch. 2 Corinthians 11:18; John 8:15; Philippians 3:4,—so that εἰδέναι τινὰ κατὰ σάρκα = ‘to know any one according to his mere human individuality,’—‘to know him as men have judged him by what he is in the flesh,’ not by what he is κατὰ πνεῦμα, as a Christian, as καινὴ κτίσις, 2 Corinthians 5:17. He who knows no man κατὰ σάρκα has, e.g. in the case of the Jew, entirely lost sight of his Jewish origin,—in that of the rich man, of his riches,—in that of the learned, of his learning,—in that of the slave, of his servitude, &c., cf. Galatians 3:28”): if even we have ( εἰ καί concedes what follows; πόλιν μεν, εἰ καὶ μὴ βλέπεις, φρονεῖς δʼ ὅμως, οἵᾳ νόσῳ ξύνεστι, Soph. Œd. Tyr. 302,—but also, as distinguished from καὶ εἰ, introduces no climax, and distributes the force of the over καί the whole concessive clause, whereas in καὶ εἰ it is confined to the conditional particle εἰ,—see Hartung, Partikellehre, i. 139) known Christ according to the flesh, now however we know Him (thus) no longer. The fact alluded to in the concessive clause, is, not any personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus while He was on earth, but that view of Him which Paul took before his conversion, when he knew Him only according to His outward apparent standing in this world, only as Jesus of Nazareth. χριστόν is not = τὸν χριστόν, ‘the Christ,’ but merely as a proper name designating Him whom he now knew as Christ.

Observe, the stress is not on χριστόν, q. d. ‘If we have known even Christ after the flesh,’ &c., as usually understood;—the position of χρ. forbids this, which would require εἰ καὶ χριστὸν ἐγν. κ. σάρ.,—but on ἐγνώκαμεν, as belonging to the past, contrasted with our present knowledge. Observe likewise, that the position of κατὰ σάρκα, as above also, forbids its being taken as the subjective qualification of ἐγνώκαμεν, as = εἰ καὶ κατὰ σάρκα ἐγν. χρ., or εἰ κ. ἐγν. χρ. κ. σάρκ., and fixes it as belonging to χριστόν,—‘Christ according to the flesh.’ St. Paul now, since his conversion, knew Him no longer as thus shewn, but as ὁρισθέντα υἱὸν θεοῦ ἐν δυνάμει, κατὰ πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνης. At that time, εὐδόκησεν ὁ ἀφορίσας μεἀποκαλύψαι τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ ἐν ἐμοί, Galatians 1:15-16. See by all means Stanley’s remarks, on the absence of all local and personal recollections of our Lord’s life, in the apostolic ago.


Verse 17

17.] So that (additional inference from what has gone before: hardly as Meyer, from 2 Corinthians 5:16 only: the death of 2 Corinthians 5:15, as well as the new knowledge of 2 Corinthians 5:16, going to make up the καινὴ κτίσις) if any man is in Christ (far better than ‘whoever is in Christ.’ See note on Philippians 4:8. ‘In Christ,’ i.e. in union with Him: Christ being ‘the element in which by faith we live and move,’ as Meyer), he is a new creature ( κτίσις, ‘creation,’—the act, implying here the result of the act. See ref. and Colossians 3:10-11; Ephesians 2:10; Ephesians 4:23.

‘He has received,’ ‘passed into,’ ‘a new life,’ John 3:3): the old things (of his former life—‘all the old selfish and impure motives, views, and prejudices,’—De Wette) have passed away (there does not appear to be any allusion, as in Chrys., Theophyl., to the passing away of Judaism, but only to the new birth, the antiquation of the former unconverted state, with all that belonged to it); behold (a reminiscence of Isaiah 43:18-19μὴ μνημονεύετε τὰ πρῶτα, καὶ τὰ ἀρχαῖα μὴ συλλογίζεσθε· ἰδοὺ, ἐγὼ ποιῶ καινά), they have become new (see var. readd.). The arrangement of the sentence followed by the Vulg., al., ‘Si qua ergo in Christo nova creatura, vetera transierunt,’ is inadmissible, because the second member would be a mere reassertion of the first.


Verse 18

18.] And all things (in this new creation: he passes to a more general view of the effects of the death of Christ—viz. our reconciliation to God) are from God (as their source), who reconciled us (all men, from next verse, where κόσμον is parallel with it) to Himself by means of Christ (as an atonement, an expiatory sacrifice, 2 Corinthians 5:21, for sin which made us ἐχθροὶ θεοῦ, see Romans 5:10), and gave (committed) to us (Apostles, not mankind in general; for had it been so,—in the next verse, which is parallel, ἐν αὐτοῖς, not ἐν ἡμῖν, must have stood, after αὐτοῖς and αὐτῶν just preceding) the ministration of the reconciliation (the duty of ministering in that office, whose peculiar work it is to proclaim this reconciliation: so διακονία τῆς δικαιοσύνης, ch. 2 Corinthians 3:9.

Observe, that the reconciliation spoken of in this and the next verse, is that of God to us, absolutely and objectively, through His Son: that whereby He can complacently behold and endure a sinful world, and receive all who come to Him by Christ. This, the subjective reconciliation,—of men to God,—follows as a matter of exhortation, 2 Corinthians 5:20),


Verse 19

19.] how that (the ὡς imports that the proposition following it, introduced by ὅτι, is matter of indirect reference. So Xen. Hell. iii. 2. 14, εἰπὼν τῷ φάρακι ὡς ὅτι ὀκνοίη μὴ ὁ τισσαφ. κ. τ. λ., and argum. Isocr. Busir. p. 520 (cited by Winer, edn. 6, § 65. 9), κατηγόρουν αὐτοῦ, ὡς ὅτι καινὰ δαιμόνια εἰσφέρει) God in Christ was reconciling the world to Himself ( ἦν καταλλάσσων not exactly = κατήλλασσεν, any more than ἦν κηρύσσων, Luke 4:44 = ἐκήρυσσεν: in both cases the habitual state is more emphatically implied than could be done by the imperfect merely: the shade of difference can, however, hardly be expressed in English.

ἦν cannot, as in Erasm., Luther, Calv., Beza, al., and E. V., belong to ἐν χριστῷ, ‘God was in Christ, reconciling’ &c.,—partly on account of the position of ἐν χρ., which would thus probably be before ἦν, but principally (Meyer) because of incoherence with θέμενος ἐν ἡμῖν κ. τ. λ.: for in that case the two latter clauses must express the manner of reconciliation by Christ, which the second of them does not.

κόσμον,—without the article, as governed words placed for emphasis before their verbs often are—it would not be καταλλάσσων κόσμον, but τὸν κόσμον,—the whole world,—man, and man’s world, entire, with all that therein is, see Colossians 1:20, but considered, cf. αὐτῶν below, as summed up in man),—not reckoning to them their trespasses (present: on the expression see reff.), and having placed in us (past:—not merely = ‘committed to us,’ but ‘laid upon us,’ as our office and charge, and, besides, ‘empowered us for,’ ‘put in our souls by His Spirit.’ ‘Us,’ viz. Apostles and teachers) the word of the reconciliation (as ὁ λόγος ὁ τοῦ σταυροῦ, 1 Corinthians 1:18).


Verse 20-21

20, 21.] He describes his office as that of an ambassador for Christ, consisting in beseeching them, ON THEIR PART, to be reconciled to God; and that, in consideration of the great Atonement which God has provided by Christ. On Christ’s behalf then (i.e. in pursuance of the imposition on us of the λόγος τῆς κατ.) we are ambassadors, as if God were exhorting by us: we beseech (‘you,’ but not uttered as an integral part of the present text, not a request now made and urged, as Romans 12:1; he is describing the embassage; we are ambassadors, and in our embassage it is our work to beseech—‘Be ye,’ &c.) on Christ’s behalf, Be reconciled to God:— καταλλ. strictly passive: ‘God was the RECONCILER—let this reconciliation have effect on you—enter into it by faith.’ Our E. V., by inserting the word ‘ye,’ has given a false impression, making it appear as if there were an emphasis on it, corresponding to God being reconciled to us, as if it had been καταλλάγητε καὶ ὑμεῖς τῷ θεῷ,—whereas it is the simple being reconciled in that reconciliation in which God was, in Christ, the Reconciler.


Verse 21

21.] States the great fact on which the exhortation to be reconciled is grounded:—viz. the unspeakable gift of God, to bring about the reconciliation. It is introduced without a γάρ (which has been supplied), as still forming part of the λόγος τῆς καταλλαγῆς. Him who knew not sin ( τὸν οὐ γνόντα would merely assert the fact, that up to the time of ἐποίησεν, He was ignorant of sin. But μή with a participle, as has been observed since the doctrine of the particles has been more accurately studied, always denies subjectively, i.e. in reference to the view of some person who is the subject, or to the hypothesis of some person who is the direct or indirect utterer of the assertion. Cf. note on ch. 2 Corinthians 4:18.

With what reference then is the particle here used? Fritz. (in Meyer) thinks, to the Christian’s necessary idea of Christ, “quem talem virum mente concipimus, qui sceleris notitiam non habuerit:” Meyer, and Winer, edn. 6, § 55. 5. β, to God’s judgment of Him. I much prefir to either regarding it as subjective with reference to Christ Himself, Who said, John 8:46, τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν ἐλέγχει με περὶ ἁμαρτίας; He was thus ὁ μὴ γνοὺς ἁμαρτίαν (see Hartung, Partikellehre, ii. 131, who gives among other examples, one very similar, from Thucyd. i. 118, ἡσύχαζόν τε τὸ πλέον τοῦ χρόνου, ὄντες καὶ πρὸ τοῦ μὴ ταχεῖς ἰέναι ἐς τοὺς πολέμους),—‘knew not,’ i.e. by contact, by personal experience, ‘sin.’ See, for the sense, 1 Peter 2:22; Hebrews 7:26), on our behalf (or, instead of us: I prefer here the former, because the purpose of the verse is to set forth how great things God has done for us:—the other, though true, does not seem so applicable.

The words ὑπὲρ ἡμ. are emphatic) He made (to be) sin (not, ‘a sin-offering,’ as Augustine, Ambros., Œcum., Erasm., Hammond, Wolf, al., for the word seems never to have the meaning, even in the LXX (see however the remarkable reading of the Codex A at Leviticus 6:25); and if it had, the former sense of the same word in this same sentence would preclude it here: nor = ἁμαρτωλός, as Meyer, al.: but, as De Wette, al., SIN, abstract, as opposed to RIGHTEOUSNESS which follows; compare κατάρα, Galatians 3:13. He, on the Cross, was the Representative of Sin,—of the sin of the world), that we might become (the present, γινώμ. as in rec., would signify, as Stallbaum, Crito, p. 43 (Meyer)—‘id quod propositum fuerit, nondum perfectum et transactum esse, sed adhuc durare.’ The aor., which is supported by all the MSS., also yields the best sense, as joining the whole justification of all God’s people, as one act accomplished, with the Sacrifice of Christ) the righteousness of God (see above: representatives of the Righteousness of God, endued with it and viewed as in it, and examples of it) in Him (in union with Him, and by virtue of our standing in Him).

 


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Bibliography Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:4". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/2-corinthians-5.html. 1863-1878.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, June 24th, 2019
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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