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Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament
2 Corinthians 3

 

 

Introduction

CHAPTER 3

2 Corinthians 3:1. μή] So also Griesb. Lachm. Scholz, Rück. Tisch., following B C D E F G א, min. Vulg. It. Syr. Arr. Copt. Slav. Theodoret, and Latin Fathers. But εἰ μή (Elz. Reiche) has also considerable attestation (A K L, min. Chrys. Damasc. al.), and since after the interrogation the continuing it occurred to the copyists more readily than the conditional εἰ, the latter, whose explanation is also more difficult, is to be preferred.

The second συστατικῶν (after ὑμῶν) is wanting in A B C א, min. Copt. Arm. Vulg. Chrys. Theodoret, and several Fathers. Deleted by Lachm. and Rück. An addition by way of gloss, which in F G is further increased by ἐπιστολῶν.—2 Corinthians 3:3. καρδίας] So Iren. Orig. Vulg. But A B C D E G L א and many min. have καρδίαις. So Lachm. An error of the copyist after 2 Corinthians 3:2.—2 Corinthians 3:5. ἀφʼ ἑαυτῶν] has its correct position after λογίσ. τι, as is abundantly attested by A D E F G, It. Vulg. Goth. and Latin Fathers (so also Lachm. Tisch. and Rück.). The Recepta after ἰκανοί ἐσμεν, and the position before ἰκανοί in B C א, min. Copt. Arm. Bas. Antioch. are to be regarded as superfluous transpositions to connect the ἀφʼ ἑαυτῶν With ἱκανοί ἐσμεν.—2 Corinthians 3:7. ἐν γράμμασιν] Lachm.: ἐν γράμματι, following B D * F G. A mechanical repetition of the singular from 2 Corinthians 3:6.

Before λίθοις, Elz. Scholz have ἐν. An explanatory addition against decisive evidence.—2 Corinthians 3:9. διακονία] A C D* F G א, min. Syr. utr. Clar. Germ. Or. Cyr. Ruf.: τῇ διακονίᾳ. So Lachm. and Rück. An interpretation instead of which Sedul. and Ambrosiast. have ex or in ministerio, while others applied the interpreting at δόξα, as still Vulg. Sixtin. Pel. read ἐν δόξῃ.

ἐν δόξῃ] ἐν is wanting in A B C א* ( δόξα), 17, 39, 80, Tol. Vulg. ms. Deleted by Lachm., bracketed by Rück. The ἐν slipped in easily from 2 Corinthians 3:8; comp. 2 Corinthians 3:11.—2 Corinthians 3:10. οὐ] Elz.: οὐδέ, against decisive evidence. Originated by the first syllable of the δεδοξ. that follows.—2 Corinthians 3:13. Instead of ἑαυτοῦ, αὐτοῦ is, according to decisive testimony, to be read with Lachm. and Tisch.—2 Corinthians 3:14. ἡμέρας] is wanting in Elz., but has decisive attestation, and was passed over as superfluous (comp. 2 Corinthians 3:15).—2 Corinthians 3:15. ἀναγινώσκεται] Lachm. and Rück.: ἂν ἀναγινώσκηται, in accordance with A B C א, while D E have the subjunctive, but not ἄν. Since the ἄν before ἀναγ. might be introduced through a mistake of the copyist just as easily as it might be left out, we have merely to decide according to the preponderance of the evidence, which proves to be all the more in favour of Lachmann’s reading, because this is supported also by D E with their retention of the subjunctive (without ἄν), while they betray the copyist’s omission of the ἄν.—2 Corinthians 3:17. ἐκεῖ] is wanting in A B C D א* 17, Copt. Syr. Cyr. Nyss. Suspected by Griesb., deleted by Lachm. Tisch. and Rück. An addition of the copyists, who had in mind the current use elsewhere of ἐκεῖ after οὗ (Matthew 18:20; Matthew 18:24; Matthew 18:28; James 3:16, al.), an usage not found in Paul. See Romans 4:15; Romans 5:20.

CONTENTS.(154)

This, again, is no recommendation of self; for we need no letters of recommendation, since you yourselves are our letter of recommendation in the higher sense (2 Corinthians 3:1-3). But with this confidence we wish to ascribe our ability not to ourselves, but to God, who has made us able as servants of the new covenant, far exalted over the old covenant (2 Corinthians 3:4-6). How glorious is this service compared with the service of Moses (2 Corinthians 3:7-11)! Hence we discharge it boldly, not like Moses with his veil over his face (2 Corinthians 3:12-13). By this veil the Jews were hardened; for up to the present time they do not discern that the old covenant has ceased (2 Corinthians 3:14-15). But when they are converted to Christ, they will come to unhindered discernment; we Christians, in fact, all behold without hindrance the glory of Christ, and become ourselves partakers of it (2 Corinthians 3:16-18).


Verse 1

2 Corinthians 3:1. ἀρχόμεθα] namely, through what was said in 2 Corinthians 2:17, regarding which Paul foresaw that his opponents would describe it as the beginning of another recommendation of himself. It is interrogative, not to be taken, with Hofmann, who then reads μή, as an affirmation, in which case a logical relation to the question that follows could only be brought out by importing something.(155)

πάλιν] belongs to ἑαυτ. συνιστ., and refers to experiences, through which Paul must have passed already before, certainly also in respect to his last Epistle (1 Corinthians 1-4; 5; 1 Corinthians 9; 1 Corinthians 14:17, al.), when the charge was made: ἑαυτὸν συνιστάνει! As to the reason why he regards the ἑαυτὸν συνιστάνειν to be such a reproach, see 2 Corinthians 10:18.

In the plural he in this chapter includes also Timothy, as is clear from expressions such as immediately occur in 2 Corinthians 3:2, ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ἡμ., and 2 Corinthians 3:6, ἡ΄ᾶς διακόνους.

συνιστάνειν] as at Romans 16:1. Hence ἐπιστολαὶ συστατικαί or γρά΄΄ατα συστατικά (Arrian. Epict. ii. 3. 1; Diog. L. v. 18, viii. 87), letters of recommendation. Regarding their use in the ancient Christian church, see Suicer, Thes. II. p. 1194; Dought. Anal. II. p. 120.

εἰ μὴ κ. τ. λ.] nisi, i.e. unless it possibly be, that, etc. Only if this exigency takes place with us, can that ἄρχονται πάλιν ἑαυτοὺς συνιστάνειν be asserted of us. Such epistolary recommendations, indeed, we should not have, and hence we should have to resort to self-praise! The expression is ironical in character, and contains an answer to that question, which reveals its absurdity. Comp. Xen. Mem. i. 2. 8. Hence εἰ is not to be taken, with Reiche, as siquidem or quia, and μή as negativing the χρῄζο΄εν (as if it were εἰ οὐ χρῇζ.).

ὥς τινες] as some people (comp. 1 Corinthians 4:18; 1 Corinthians 15:12; Galatians 1:7), certainly a side-glance at anti-Pauline teachers, who had brought to the Corinthians letters of recommendation, either from teachers of repute, or from churches,(156) and had obtained similar letters from Corinth at their departure thenc.

πρὸς ὑμᾶς, ἐξ ὑμῶν] In the former case, it might be thought that we wished to supply this need by recommendation of ourselves; in the latter case ( ἐξ ὑμῶν), that we, by our self-recommendation, wished to corrupt your judgment, and to induce you to recommend us to others. Both would be absurd, but this is just in keeping with the irony.


Verse 2

2 Corinthians 3:2 f. This ironical excitement, 2 Corinthians 3:1, is succeeded by earnestness and pathos. Paul, as conscious of his deserts in regard to the Corinthians as he is faithful to his Christian humility (see 2 Corinthians 3:3), gives a skilful explanation of the thought contained in 2 Corinthians 3:1 : we need no letters of introduction either to you or from yo.

ἐπιστολὴ ἡμῶν] i.e. the letter (the letter of recommendation) which we have, have to show, namely, as well to you as from you. That we should understand both, is required by 2 Corinthians 3:1, and to this 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 are admirably suited, since what is said in them represents every letter of recommendation as well to the Corinthians as from them as superfluous. This in opposition to Flatt, Rückert, Osiander, and others, who are of opinion that Paul has reference merely to his previous ἐξ ὑμῶν, and (Rückert) that the πρὸς ὑμᾶς has been said only to hit his opponent.

ὑμεῖς ἐστε] in so far, namely, as your conversion, and your whole Christian being and life, is our work, redounding to our commendation. Comp. 1 Corinthians 9:2.

ἐγγεγραμμ. ἐν ταῖς καρδ. ἡμ.] A more precise definition of the manner of the ἐπιστολὴ ἡμῶν: inscribed in our hearts. This is the mode—adapted to the image—of conveying the thought: since we have in our own consciousness the certainty of being recommended to you by yourselves and to others by you. That you yourselves are our recommendation (to yourselves and to others) our own hearts tell us, and it is known by all. Paul did not write ὑμῶν, as א and a few cursives, also the Ethiopic, have the reading, which Olearius, Emmerling, Flatt, and especially Rinck (Lucubr. crit. p. 160), recommend to our adoption: for in that case there would result an incongruity in the figurative conception, since the Corinthians themselves are the letter. Besides, there were so many malevolents in the church. But the apostle’s own good consciousness was, as it were, the tablet on which this living Epistle of the Corinthians stood, and that had to be left unassailed even by the most malevolent. Of the love (comp. 2 Corinthians 7:3; Philippians 1:7) of which Chrysostom and others explain ἐν τ. καρδ. ἡμ. (comp. Wetstein: “quam tenero vos amore prosequar, omnes norunt”), there is no mention in the whole context. Emmerling is wrong, however, also in saying that ἐγγεγρ. ἐν τ. καρδ. ἡμ. is equivalent to the mere nobis inscriptae, i.e. quas ubique nobiscum gestamus, ut cognosci et legi ab omnibus possint. Just because what is written stands within in the consciousness, ἐν ταῖς καρδ. ἡμ.(157) is used.

The plural is neither to be explained, with Billroth, from the analogy of σπλάγχνα (without such usage existing), nor to be considered with Rückert and de Wette as occasioned by the plural of the speaking person (to whom, however, the plural hearts would not be suitable), but Paul writes in name of himself and of Timothy. Comp. also 2 Corinthians 4:6, 2 Corinthians 7:3, and see Calvin, who, however, in an arbitrary way (see 2 Corinthians 1:1) includes Silvanus also (2 Corinthians 1:19).

γινωσκομένη κ. τ. λ.] This appears to contradict the previous words, according to which the Epistle is written ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ἡ΄ῶν; hence Fritzsche, Diss. I. p. 19 f. (Billroth follows him), says that Paul “nonnulla adjicere, in quibus Corinthiorum potius, quam epistolae, cum qua eos comparat, memor esse videatur.” But he rather presents the thing as it is, and hence cannot otherwise delineate the image of the Epistle in which he presents it, than as it corresponds to the thing. In so far, namely, as Paul and Timothy have in their hearts the certainty of being recommended by the Corinthians themselves, these are a letter of recommendation which stands inscribed in the hearts of those teachers; and yet, since from the whole phenomenon of the Christian life of the church it cannot remain unknown to any one that the Corinthians redound to the commendation of Paul and Timothy, and how they do so, this letter is known as what it is, and read(158) by all men. The Epistle has therefore in fact the two qualities, which in a letter proper would be contradictory, and the image is not confounded with the thing, but is adapted to the thing. Rückert, who likewise (see above) finds for ἐν τ. καρδ. the reference to the apostle’s love, explains it: “In his heart they stand written … and where he himself arrives, there he, as it were, reads out this writing, when from a loving heart gives forth tidings everywhere, what a prosperous church the Lord has gathered to Himself in Corinth.” Comp. Chrysostom. But in that case the πάντες would not in fact be the readers—as yet they ought to be according to ὑπὸ πάντων ἀνθρ.—but Paul; and the thing would resolve itself into a self-recommendation, which is yet held to be disclaimed in 2 Corinthians 3:1.


Verse 3

2 Corinthians 3:3. φανερούμενοι] attaches itself in construction to ὑμεῖς ἐστε, to which it furnishes a more precise definition, and that in elucidative reference to what has just been said γινωσκομένηἀνθρώπων: since you are being manifested to be an epistle of Christ, i.e. since it does not remain hid, but becomes (continually) clear to every one that you, etc. Comp. on the construction, 1 John 2:19.

ἐπιστολὴ χριστοῦ] genitivus auctoris (not of the contents—in opposition to Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theophylact): a letter composed (dictated) by Christ. Fritzsche, l.c. p. 23, takes the genitive as possessive, so that the sense without figure would be: homines Christiani estis. But in what follows the whole origin of the Epistle is very accurately set forth, and should the author not be mentioned—not in that case be placed in front? Theodoret already gives the right vie.

ἐπιστολή is here not again specially letter of recommendation (2 Corinthians 3:2), but letter in general; for through the characteristic: “you are an epistle of Christ, drawn up by us,” etc., the statement above. “you are our letter of recommendation,” is to be elucidated and made good.

In the following διακονηθεῖσασαρκίναις Paul presents himself and Timothy as the writers of the epistle of Christ ( διακον. ὑφʼ ἡμ.), the Holy Spirit as the means of writing in lieu of ink, and human hearts, i.e. according to the context, the hearts of the Corinthians, as the material which is written upon. For Christ was the author of their Christian condition; Paul and Timothy were His instruments for their conversion, and by their ministry the Holy Spirit became operative in the hearts of the readers. In so far the Corinthians, in their Christian character, are as it were a letter which Christ has caused to be written, through Paul and Timothy, by means of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. On the passive expression διακονηθ. ὑφʼ ἡμ., comp. 2 Corinthians 8:19 f.; Mark 10:45; note also the change of the tenses: διακονηθ. and ἐγγεγραμμ. (the epistle is there ready); likewise the designation of the Holy Spirit as πνεῦμα θεοῦ ζῶντος, comp. 2 Corinthians 3:6. We may add that Paul has not mixed up heterogeneous traits of the figure of a letter begun in 2 Corinthians 3:2 (Rückert and others), but here, too, he carries out this figure, as it corresponds to the thing to be figured thereby. The single incongruity is οὐκ ἐν πλαξὶ λιθίναις, in which he has not retained the conception of a letter (which is written on tablets of paper), but has thought generally of a writing to be read. Since, however, he has conceived of such writing as divinely composed (see above, πνεύματι θεοῦ ζῶντος), of which nature was the law of Sinai, the usual supposition is right, that he has been induced to express himself thus by the remembrance of the tables of the law (Hebrews 9:4; comp. Jeremiah 31:31-33); for we have no reason to deny that the subsequent mention of them (2 Corinthians 3:7) was even now floating before his mind. Fritzsche, indeed, thinks that “accommodate ad nonnulla V. T. loca (Proverbs 3:3; Proverbs 7:3) cordis notionem per tabulas cordis expressurus erat, quibus tabulis carneis nihil tam commode quam tabulas lapideas opponere potuerit.” But he might quite as suitably have chosen an antithesis corresponding to the figure of a letter (2 John 1:12; 2 Timothy 4:13); hence it is rather to be supposed that he came to use the expression tabulae cordis, just because he had before his mind the idea of the tables of the law.

The antitheses in our passage are intended to bring out that here an epistle is composed in quite another and higher sense than an ordinary letter (which one brings into existence μέλανι σπείρων διὰ καλάμου, Plato Phaedr. p. 276 C)—a writing, which is not to be compared even with the Mosaic tables of the law. But the purpose of a contrast with the legalism of his opponents (Klöpper) is not conveyed in the context.

That there is a special purpose in the use of σαρκίναις as opposed to λιθίναις, cannot be doubted after the previous antitheses. It must imply the notion of something better (comp. Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26), namely, the thought of the living receptivity and susceptibility: δεκτικὰς τοῦ λόγου (Theophylact, Calvin, Stolz, Flatt, de Wette, Osiander, Ewald, and others). The distinctive sense of σαρκινός is correctly noted by Erasmus: “ut materiam intelligas, non qualitatem.” Comp. on 1 Corinthians 3:1. καρδίας is also the genitive of material, and the contrast would have been sufficiently denoted by ἀλλʼ ἐν πλαξὶ καρδίας: it is, however, expressed more concretely and vividly by the added σαρκίναις: in fleshy tablets of the heart.


Verse 4

2 Corinthians 3:4. πεποίθησιν is emphatic, and therefore precedes (otherwise in 2 Corinthians 1:15); confidence, however, of such a kind as is indicated in 2 Corinthians 3:2-3; for there Paul has expressed a lofty self-consciousness. Hence there is no reason for seeking a reference to something earlier instead of to what immediately precedes, and for connecting it with 2 Corinthians 2:17 (Grotius and others, including de Wette; comp. Rückert), or with 2 Corinthians 2:14-17, as Hofmann has done in consequence of his taking ἀρχόμεθα in 2 Corinthians 3:1 as not interrogative. Brief and apt is Luther’s gloss: “Confidence, that we have prepared you to form the epistle.”

διὰ τοῦ χριστοῦ] through Christ, who brings it about in us: for in his official capacity Paul knows himself to be under the constant influence of Christ, without which he would not have that confidence. Theodoret says well: τοῦ χριστοῦ τοῦτο ἡμῖν δεδώκοτος τὸ θάρσος.

πρὸς τὸν θεόν] in relation to God, as bringing about the successful results of the apostolic activity. It denotes the religious direction, in which he has such confidence (comp. Romans 4:2; Romans 5:1), not the validity before God (de Wette).


Verse 5

2 Corinthians 3:5. Now comes the caveat, for which 2 Corinthians 3:4 has prepared the way,—the guarding against the possible objection, that Paul considered himself (and Timothy) as originator of the ability for apostolic working. οὐχ ὅτι is therefore not to be taken as equivalent to on ὅτι οὐχ (Mosheim, Schulz, Emmerling), nor is πέποιθα to be supplied again after οὐχ (Emmerling); but we have here the quite common use of οὐχ ὅτι for οὐκ ἐρῶ, ὅτι. See on 2 Corinthians 1:24. Rückert finds in οὐχ ὅτι κ. τ. λ. a reason assigned for the πρὸς τὸν θεόν, or an explanation of it: “In thus speaking, I would not have it thought that,” etc. But if in πρὸς τ. θεόν there was meant to be conveyed the same idea as was further explained in 2 Corinthians 3:5, Paul would have expressed himself quite illogically, and in explaining or assigning a reason for it he must have written ὅτι οὐχ. No; the course of thought is: “With this πεποίθησις, however, I do not wish to be misunderstood or misconstrued: I do not mean by it, that we are of ourselves sufficient,” etc. With this connection πρὸς τὸν θεόν is not at variance; for by it God was not yet meant as author of the adequate ability (2 Corinthians 3:5 shows this very point), but as producer of the result.

λογίσασθαί τι] to judge anything (censere). The context furnishes the more precise definition which Paul had in view. 2 Corinthians 3:2-4; 2 Corinthians 3:6. He denies, namely, that of himself he possesses the ability to settle in his judgment the means and ways, and, in general, the mode of discharging his apostolic duties. If he has just been speaking in 2 Corinthians 3:2-4 with so much confidence of his prosperous and successful labour in Corinth, yet it is by no means his own ability, but the divine empowering, which enables him to determine by his own judgment anything regarding the discharge of his vocation. Accordingly, we can neither approve the meaning arbitrarily given to τί, aliquid praeclari (Emmerling; van Hengel, Annot. p. 219), nor agree with Hofmann, who, in consistency with his reference of πεποίθησις to 2 Corinthians 2:14-17, makes the apostle guard against the misconstruction that this, his πεποίθησις, rests on ideas which he forms for himself—on an estimate of his official working, according to a standard elaborated by his own mind. Even apart from that erroneous reference of the πεποίθησις, the very expression ἱκανοί would be unsuitable to the meaning adopted by Hofmann, and instead of it a notion of presumption would rather have been in place; the prominence given to ἱκανοτής by its being used thrice can only concern the ability which regulates the official labour itself. The dogmatic exposition, disregarding the context, finds here the entire inability of the natural man for all good. See Augustine, de dono persev. 13, contra Pelag. 8; Calvin: “non poterat magis hominem nudare omni bono.” Comp. Beza, Calovius, and others, including Olshausen. The reference also of the words to the doctrinal contents of the preaching, which was not derived from his own reflection (Theodoret, Grotius, de Wette, Neander, and others), is not suggested by the connection, and is forbidden by the fact that ἀφʼ ἑαυτῶν does not belong to λογίσασθε at all (see below). This also in opposition to Osiander, who finds the meaning. “not human, but divine thoughts lie at the root of the whole of my official work.”

ἀφʼ ἑαυτῶν] has its assured place after λογίσ. τι (see the critical remarks). The contrast that follows ( ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ) decides what it belongs to in sense,—namely, not to λογίσασθαί τι, but to ἱκανοί ἐσμεν,—so that ἱκανοί ἐσμεν λογίσασθαί τι is to be considered as going together, as one idea. Mistaking this, Rückert thinks that either Paul has placed the words wrongly, or the order given by B C א (see the critical remarks) must be preferred.

On ἀφʼ ἑαυτοῦ, from one’s own means, nemine suppeditante, see Wetstei.

ὡς ἐξ ἑαυτῶν] sc. ἱκανοὶ ὄντες λογίσ. τι, a more precise definition of the ἀφʼ ἑαντ. inserted on purpose (making the notice thoroughly exhaustive). The proceeding from ( ἀπό) is still more definitely marked as causal procession ( ἐκ): as from ourselves, i.e. as if our ability to judge anything had its origin from ourselves. Wolf arbitrarily refers ἀπό to the will, and ἐξ to the power; and Rückert wrongly connects ἐξ ἑαυτ. with λογίσ. τί; it is in fact parallel to ἀφʼ ἑαυτ. Paul is conscious of the ἱκανὸν εἶναι λογίσασθαί τι, and ascribes it to himself; but he denies that he has this ἱκανότης of himself, or from himsel.

ἱκανότης ἡμῶν] sc. λογίσασθαί τι.

Rückert finds in our passage, especially in ἀφʼ ἑαυτῶν, an allusion to some utterances, unknown to us, of opponents, which, however, cannot be proved from 2 Corinthians 10:7, and is quite a superfluous hypothesis.


Verse 6

2 Corinthians 3:6. ὃς καὶ ἱκάνωσεν ἡμᾶς] ὅς, he who, in the sense of οὗτος γάρ. See Kühner, ad Xen. Mem. i. 2. 64; van Hengel, Annot. 220. And καί is the also of the corresponding relation (Baeumlein, Partik. p. 152), so that there is expressed the agreement between what is contained in the relative clause and what was said before: who also (qui idem, comp. Klotz, ad Devar. p. 636) has made us capable ( ἀρκοῦσαν ἐχωρήγησε δύναμιν, Theodoret) as ministers, etc. According to Bengel, Rückert (comp. also de Wette, Osiander, Hofmann), the sense is: “that God has bestowed on him not only the ability mentioned in 2 Corinthians 3:5 but also the more comprehensive one of a διάκονος κ. τ. λ.” But in that case the words must have stood thus: ὃς καὶ διακόνους καινῆς διαθήκης ἱκάνωσεν ἡμᾶς. The notion of ἱκανότης is thrice put in front with the same emphasis. Of ἱκανόω (Colossians 1:12) only the passive, in the sense of to have enough, occurs in the (later) Greek writers, such as Dion. Hal. ii. 74, and in the LX.

διακόνους καινῆς διαθήκ.] as ministers of a new covenant (comp. Ephesians 3:7; Colossians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 11:15; Luke 1:2), i.e. to be such as serve a new covenant, as devote to it their activity. καιν. διαθ., without the article, is conceived qualitatively. The new covenant (Hebrews 12:24) of God with men, which is meant, is—in contrast to the one founded by Moses—that established by Christ, in which the fulfilling of the law is no longer defined as the condition of salvation, but faith on the atonement in Christ, 1 Corinthians 11:25; Romans 10:5 ff.; Galatians 4:24 ff.; Matthew 26:28.

οὐ γράμματος, ἀλλὰ πνεύμ.] is since Heumann usually (also by Billroth, Rückert, Ewald) regarded as governed by καινῆς διαθήκης (Rückert, “of a covenant, which offers not γράμμα, but πνεῦμα”), but without reason, since the sequel, by διακονία τοῦ θανάτου and διακ. τοῦ πνεύματος (2 Corinthians 3:7-8), rather points to the fact that Paul has conceived οὐ γρ. ἀλλὰ πν. as dependent on διακόνους (so also de Wette, Neander, Osiander, Hofmann), as an appositional more precise definition to the καινῆς διαθήκης: to be ministers not of letter (which we would be as ministers of the old covenant), but of spirit. γράμμα characterizes the Mosaic covenant according to the specific manner in which it occurs and subsists, for it is established and fixed in writing (by means of the written letter), and thereby—although it is divine, yet without bringing with it and communicating any principle of inward vital efficacy—settled as obligatory. On the other hand, πνεῦμα characterizes the Christian covenant, in so far as its distinctive and essential mode of existence consists in this, that the divine living power of the Holy Spirit is at work in it; through this, and not through a written instrument, it subsists and fulfils itself. Comp. Romans 2:29; Romans 7:6; Hebrews 10:29; Hebrews 8:7 ff. Not letter therefore, but spirit, is that to which the teachers of the gospel minister, the power, whose influence is advanced by their labours;(159) οὐ γὰρ τὰ παλαιὰ τοῦ νόμου προσφέρομεν γράμματα, ἀλλὰ τὴν καινὴν τοῦ πνεύματος δωρεάν, Theodoret. It is true that the law also is in its nature πνευ΄ατικός (see on Romans 7:14), and its λόγια are ζῶντα (see on Acts 7:38), but it is misused by the power of sin in man to his destruction, because it does not furnish the spirit which breaks this powe.

τὸ γὰρ γρά΄΄α ἀποκτείνει, τὸ δὲ πνεῦ΄α ζωοποιεῖ] specifies quite simply the reason, why God has made them capable of ministering not to the letter, but to the spirit. It is therefore quite unnecessary to presuppose, with Fritzsche, Billroth, and Rückert, a suppressed intermediate thought (namely, that the new covenant is far more excellent). We may add that the γάρ does not extend also to what follows (2 Corinthians 3:7-8), so as to make the sentence τὸ γρά΄΄α κ. τ. λ. merely introductory to the sequel, and the whole a vindication of the apostle’s referring his capacity of judgment to God. This view of Hofmann is connected with his interpretation of λογίσ. τι, 2 Corinthians 3:5, and has besides against it the fact, that the weighty antithesis τὸ γ. γρά΄΄α κ. τ. λ. is neither adapted to be a mere introductory thought, nor betokened as being such, the more especially as it contains completely in itself the ground establishing what immediately precedes, and with 2 Corinthians 3:7 a new discussion begins, which runs on to the end of the chapter without a brea.

ἀποκτείνει] does not refer to the physical death (Käuffer; ζωὴ αἰών. p. 75), in so far as that is the consequence of sin (Romans 5:12), and sin is occasioned and furthered by the law (Romans 7:9 ff; Romans 6:23; 1 Corinthians 15:56, al.). Against this interpretation it is decisive that according to Romans 5:12 ff. (see in loc.) bodily death is the consequence, extending to all, of Adam’s sin, and has, since Adam, reigned over all even before the law. Nor yet are we to understand spiritual (Billroth), ethical (de Wette, Krummel), or spiritual and bodily death (Rückert), or the mere sensus mortis (Bengel, comp. Neander), but according to Romans 6:21; Romans 6:23; Romans 7:5; Romans 7:9-11; Romans 7:13; Romans 7:24, eternal death,(160) the opposite of the eternal life, which, by means of the Holy Spirit becoming operative in the heart through the gospel, is brought about for man who is liable to eternal death (Romans 8:2; Romans 8:6; Romans 8:10-11)—which here (comp. John 6:63) is expressed by τὸ δὲ πνεῦμα ζωοποιεῖ, comp. on 2 Corinthians 2:16. How far the law works eternal death, is shown from Romans 7:5; Romans 7:7 ff.; comp. 1 Corinthians 15:56. Through its prohibitions, namely, it becomes for the power of sin in man the occasion of awakening evil desire, and therewith transgression sets in and the imputing of it for condemnation, whereby man is liable to eternal death, and that by means of the curse of the law which heaps up sin and produces the divine anger, see on 2 Corinthians 3:9; Galatians 3:10. Comp. Romans 4:15; Romans 5:20. After Chrysostom and his followers (also Ambrosiaster), Grotius explains it as. “morte violenta punit peccatores,” and Fritzsche: “lex supplicia sumit.” This is to be rejected, because in this way the law would not be the very thing that kills, but only that which determines death as a punishment; and consequently no corresponding contrast to ζωοποιεῖ would result. Finally, we can only consider as historically remarkable the interpretation of Origen regarding the literal and mystical sense of Scripture, the former of which is injurious, the latter conducive, to salvation. Something similar is still to be found in Krause and Royaards. Against the visionaries, who referred γράμμα to the outward and πνεῦμα to the inward word, see Calovius.


Verse 7

2 Corinthians 3:7. δέ] leads on to a setting forth of the great glory of the Christian ministry, which is proved from the splendour of the ministry of Moses by a conclusion a minori ad majus.(161)

διακονία τοῦ θανάτου] i.e. the ministry conducing to the rule of death; for τὸ γράμμα ἀποκτείνει, 2 Corinthians 3:6. It is not the law itself that is meant, but the ministry of Moses, which he accomplished by bringing down to the people the tables of the law from Sinai. Rückert erroneously thinks that the whole ministry of the Levitical priesthood is meant, against which what follows is clearly decisive. The reason assigned by Rückert, that Moses as μεσίτης τῆς παλ. διαθήκης can only be treated as on a parallel with Christ, and not with the apostles, is not valid, since in the context the prevailing conception is not that of μεσίτης but that of διάκονος, and as such Moses is certainly parallel to the ministers of the new covenan.

ἐν γράμμασιν ἐντετυπ. λίθοις] A comma is not to be put after γράμμ. (Luther, Beza, Piscator, Estius, and others, including Schrader and Ewald), which would require the repetition of the article before ἐν γρ., and would make the sentence drag; but it is: which was imprinted on stones by means of letters. The death-promoting ministry of Moses was really graven on stones, in so far as the Decalogue engraven on the two tables was actually the ministerial document of Moses, as it were the registration of his office. In this case ἐν γράμμασιν is not something of an idle addition (in opposition to de Wette, who defends the reading ἐν γράμματι, and attaches it to τοῦ θανάτου), but in fact an element emphatically prefixed, in keeping with the process of argument a minori, and depicting the inferior unspiritual character. Rückert (forced by his reference to the service of the Levitical priesthood) erroneously thinks that Paul means not only the tables of the law, but the whole Pentateuch, and that he has been not quite so exact in his use of the expression ( ἐντετυπ. λίθοις!).

ἐγενήθη ἐν δόξῃ] took place in splendour, was surrounded by splendour, full of splendour, see Buttmann, neut. Gram. p. 284 [E. T. 330]. Bengel says rightly: “nacta est gloriam; γίνομαι fio, et εἰμὶ sum, 2 Corinthians 3:8. differunt.” Comp. Fritzsche in Fritzschior. Opusc. p. 284. It relates to the external radiance, which in the intercourse with God on Sinai passed from the divine glory (Exodus 24:16 to the countenance of Moses, so that he descended from the mountain with his face shining (Exodus 34:29 ff.). For a Rabbinical fiction that this splendour was from the light created at the beginning of things, see Eisenmenger, Entdeckt. Judenth. I. p. 369 f. Others (Vatablus, and more recently, Flatt, Billroth, Rückert) take ἐν δόξῃ, not of that glorious radiance, but of grandeur, glory in general. So also de Wette and Hofmann. But this is opposed to the context, for in what follows it is not merely a visible proof of the δόξα which is adduced (as Rückert thinks), or a concrete representation of it (Hofmann), but the high degree ( ὥστε) of the very δόξα which is meant by ἐγενήθη ἐν δόξῃ. It is said, indeed, that 2 Corinthians 3:8, where the glory spoken of is no external one, does not admit of our reference. But even in 2 Corinthians 3:8 the δόξα is an external glory (see on 2 Corinthians 3:8); and further, we have here an argument a minori ad majus, in which every reader was historically aware that the minus, the δόξα of Moses, was an external one, while as to the majus, the δόξα of the ministry of the N. T., it was self-evident that it is before the Parousia merely something ideal, a spiritual possession, and only becomes also an external reality after the Parousia (and to this 2 Corinthians 3:8 applies).

ὥστε μὴ δύνασθαι κ. τ. λ.] Philo gives the same account, Vit. Mos. p. 665 A Exodus 34 has only: ἐφοβήθησαν ἐγγίσαι αὐτῷ, which was more precisely explained by that statemen.

διὰ τὴν δόξαν τοῦ πρ. αὐτ.] would have been in itself superfluous, but with the addition τὴν καταργ. strengthening the conclusion it has a solemn emphasis. Philo, l.c., calls this δόξα: ἡλιοειδὲς φέγγος.

τὴν καταργουμένην] “Claritas illa vultus Mosis transitoria erat et modici temporis,” Estius. Ex. l.c. gives us no express information of this; but 2 Corinthians 3:13 clearly shows that Paul regarded the radiance which Moses brought down from his converse with God as only temporary and gradually ceasing, which, indeed, is self-evident and correctly inferred from the renewal of the radiance on each occasion. In this passing away of that lustre,—which even during its passing away was yet so great that the Israelites could not gaze fixedly on him,

Paul undoubtedly (in opposition to Hofmann) found a type of the ceasing of the Mosaic ministry (2 Corinthians 3:13); but in our present passage this is only hinted at in a preliminary way by the historical addition τ. καταργ., without the latter ceasing to belong to the historical narration. Hence the participle is not to be taken, with Vulgate, Luther, Calvin, and others, including Rückert, in a purely present sense: “which yet ceases,” nor in the sense of transient (Ewald), but as the imperfect participle; the transitory, which was in the act of passing away.


Verse 8

2 Corinthians 3:8. The ministry dedicated to the Holy Spirit, i.e. forming the medium of His operation (the teaching ministry of the gospel), is as such the specific opposite of the διακονία τοῦ θανάτου ἐν γράμμασιν ἐντετυπ. λίθοις, 2 Corinthians 3:7. In τοῦ πνεύματος are contained the elements of contrast. See 2 Corinthians 3:6.

ἔσται] is not the future of the inference (Billroth, Hofmann, and the older commentators); nor does it refer to the advancing steady development (Osiander), but rather to the gloria futuri seculi. Comp. on 2 Corinthians 3:12, where the δόξα—which is therefore not to be understood, as it usually is, of inner elevation and dignity—appears as the object of the ἐλπίς. We cannot therefore say with Bengel: “loquitur ex prospectu V. T. in Novum,” but: loquitur ex prospectu praesentis seculi in futurum.


Verse 9

2 Corinthians 3:9. Grounding, simply by a characteristic change of the predicates ( κατακρ. and δικαιοσύν.), of what was said in 2 Corinthians 3:7-8. Comp. Romans 5:18-19.

διακονία τῆς κατακρίσ.] the ministry, which is the medium of condemnation. For the ministry of Moses, which communicated the Decalogue, promoted through the law sin (Romans 7:9 ff.), whose power it became (1 Corinthians 15:56), and thus realized the divine curse against the transgressors of the law (Galatians 3:20). Comp. on 2 Corinthians 3:6. The article denoted the well-known, solemn condemnation, Deuteronomy 27:26.

δόξα] sc. ἐστί, for the former ἐγενήθη ἐν δόξῃ is realised as present, regarded as present. Comp., subsequently, the present περισσεύει. The substantive δόξα (it refers, as in 2 Corinthians 3:7, to that external glory) stands as predicate in the sense of ἔνδοξος, denoting the notion of the adjective more strongly, according to a current usage in Greek. Romans 8:10; John 6:63; 1 John 4:8, al. See Abresch, Auctar. Diluc. p. 275 f.; Fritzsche, ad Rom. II. p. 120.

περισσεύει] The tense realizes as present what is future; for the future glory of the teacher is already now an ideal possession. Note the accumulated strength of the expression: is in much higher degree superabundant in glory. On the dative of more precise definition with περισσεύειν, comp. 1 Thessalonians 3:12; Acts 16:5; Polyb. xviii. 5; Plut. Mor. p. 708 F. Usually in the N. T. with ἐν, as also here in Elzevi.

διακονία τῆς δικαιοσύν.] the ministry, which is the medium of righteousness(162) (comp. 2 Corinthians 11:15); for it is the office of gospel teaching to preach the faith in Jesus Christ, by which we have righteousness before God. See Romans 1:17; Romans 3:22 ff., Romans 3:30; Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:13. Comp. especially, 2 Corinthians 5:21.


Verse 10

2 Corinthians 3:10. A more precise grounding of the previous πολλῷ μᾶλλον περισσεύει κ. τ. λ. by the highest climax of this relation. For even ( καὶ γάρ) that which is glorious is without glory in this point by reason of the superabundant glory.

οὐ δεδόξασται] The chief element is prefixed, and combined into one idea (Hartung, Partikell. I. p. 122; Baeuml. p. 278): gloria destitutum est. The perfect denotes the continuance of what had taken place; Kühner, II. p. 70.

τὸ δεδοξασμένον] is referred to the Mosaic religious economy by Emmerling and Olshausen, following older expositors, quite against the context. Most refer it to the ministry of Moses, which had been made glorious through the radiance on his countenance, 2 Corinthians 3:7-9. But see belo.

ἐν τούτῳ τῷ μέρει] in this respect (2 Corinthians 9:3; 1 Peter 4:16; Colossians 2:16; often in Greek authors), is joined with τὸ δεδοξασμένον by Fritzsche, l.c. p. 31 (also de Wette and Ewald): “quod collustratum fuit hac parte h. e. ita, ut per splendorem, qui in Mosis facie conspiciebatur, illustre redderetur.” But on the one hand—supposing that τὸ δεδοξασμ. denotes the ministry of Moses—the ἐν τρύτῳ τῷ μέρει so taken would be an utterly superfluous addition, since the reader would already have had full information in accordance with the context through τὸ δεδοξασμ. having the article; on the other hand, we should expect τούτῳ to point to something said just before, which, however, is not the case, since we must go back as far as 2 Corinthians 3:7. If, again, with Ewald, we take ἐν τούτῳ τῷ μέρει as “in all that is Jewish, apart from what is Christian,” and refer it to the then still subsisting state of the temple, synagogue, etc., how enigmatically Paul would have expressed himself, without any hint of his meaning in the context! Following Chrysostom ( κατὰ τὸν τῆς συγκρίσεως λόγον) and Theodoret ( ἀποβλέπων εἰς τούτους, namely, to the ministers of the N. T.), most commentators (including Billroth, Olshausen, Osiander, Hofmann) join it with οὐ δεδόξ., so that it would indicate the reference in which the sentence οὐ δεδόξ. τὸ δεδοξ. holds good (see Hofmann), and consequently would have the meaning: “over against the office of Moses.” But how utterly superfluous, and in fact cumbrous, would this ἐν τούτῳ τῷ μερ. be if so taken, especially seeing that there still follows ἕνεκεν τ. ὑπερβ. δοξ., which serves to throw light upon the relation asserted! How surprising would this amplification be at this very point, where the comparison is carried to the highest pitch, and the representation is so forcibly and pithily begun by the oxymoron οὐ δεδόξ. τὸ δεδοξ.! Rückert (following Flatt) connects also with οὐ δεδόξασται, but explains it: in this respect, that is, in so far as the first διακονία was the διακονία τῆς κατακρίσεως. At variance with the connection. For not in so far as the Mosaic διακονία ministered to condemnation and death, is its splendour darkened, but in so far as its splendour is outshone by a far greater splendour,—that of the διακονία of the N. T. Besides, if the assumed reference of ἐν τούτῳ τῷ μέρει were to be held correct, the κατάκρισις would necessarily be the principal element (predicate) in what precedes, not merely an attributive definition of the subject. On the whole, the following explanation, against which none but quite irrelevant objections(163) are made, seems to be the right one: ἐν τούτῳ τῷ μέρει is certainly to be connected with οὐ δεδόξασται; τὸ δεδοξασμένον, however, is not to be taken as a designation of the Mosaic διακονία in concreto, but signifies that which is glorified generally, in abstracto; so that, in addition to the οὐ δεδόξασται said of it, there is also given with ἐν τούτῳ τῷ μέρει the reference to the particular concrete thing of which the apostle is speaking, the reference to the ministry of Moses, namely, thus: “for in this respect, i.e. in respect of the relation of glory in which the Mosaic δισκονία stands to the Christian (2 Corinthians 3:9), it is even the case that what is glorified is unglorified.” Analogously, the δόξα of the moon, for instance, is no δόξα, when the δόξα of the sun beams forth (1 Corinthians 15:14).

ἕνεκεν τῆς ὑπερβαλλ. δόξης] by reason of (Stallbaum, ad Plat. Rep. p. 329 B) the superabundant glory, which obscures the δεδοξασμένον, exhibits its δόξα as relatively no δόξα. This applies to the future glory of the N. T. διακονία, setting in at the αἰὼν μέλλων, but already conceived as present.


Verse 11

2 Corinthians 3:11. A justification of the foregoing expression τῆς ὑπερβαλλ. δόξης by a general proposition, the application of which in conformity with the connection is left to the reader, and the truth of which in this connection lies in the idea of the completion, which the facts of salvation in the O. T. have to find in the kingdom of God. “For if that which ceases is glorious, much more is that which abides glorious.”

τὸ καταργούμενον] that which is in the act of passing away. This the reader was to apply to the διακονία of Moses(164) spoken of in 2 Corinthians 3:7-10, in so far, namely, as this ministry is in the course of its abolition through the preaching of the gospel by means of the διακονία τῆς δικαιοσύνης. Moses ceases to be lawgiver, when the gospel is preached; for see Romans 10:4. That this is the application intended by Paul, is confirmed by the contrast τὸ μένον, which the reader was to apply to the teaching ministration of the N. T. (not to the Christian religion, as Emmerling and Flatt, following older commentators, think), in so far, namely, as that ministration is not abolished, but continues on to the Parousia (whereupon its glory sets in). Fritzsche is of opinion that the διακονία of Moses is τὸ καταργούμενον for the reason: “quod ejus fulgor muneris Christiani gloria superatur, et ita sane καταργεῖται, nullus redditur.” But in that case the subject of καταργεῖται would in fact be the splendour, not the διακονία itself. This applies at the same time in opposition to Billroth, who refers τὸ καταργ. to the lustre of Moses’ office on each occasion soon disappearing, which is impossible on account of διὰ δόξης.

διὰ δόξης] sc. ἐστι. διά expresses the situation, condition, and so is a circumlocution for the adjective. Stallbaum, ad Plat. Phileb. p. 192; Bernhardy, p. 235; Fritzsche, ad Rom. I. p. 138. ἐν δόξῃ (2 Corinthians 3:7) is not different in sense; but the supposition of Estius, Billroth, Olshausen, Osiander, Neander, Hofmann, that διά indicates only what is transient, and ἐν what is abiding, is mere fancy. Paul is fond of varying the prepositions in designating the same relation. Comp. Romans 3:30; Romans 5:10; Romans 15:2; Galatians 2:16; Philemon 1:5. Comp. also Kühner, II, p. 319.


Verse 12

2 Corinthians 3:12. ἔχοντες οὖν τοιαύτ. ἐλπ.] οὖν, accordingly, namely, after what has just been said πολλῷ μᾶλλον τὸ μένον ἐν δόξῃ, sc. ἐστι. Since the ἐλπίς has its object necessarily in the future, and not yet in the present (Romans 8:24), τοιαύτη ἐλπίς cannot denote the consciousness of the abiding glory of his office, which Paul possesses (Hofmann; comp. Erasmus and others), but it must be the apostle’s great hope,—a hope based on the future of the Messiah’s kingdom—that the ministry of the gospel would not fail at the Parousia of its glory far surpassing the δόξα of the ministry of Moses. This will be the glorious, superabundant reward of the labour of Christ’s δοῦλοι, as promised by their Master (Luke 22:29 ff.; John 14:3; Matthew 25:14 ff., al.). Comp. 1 Corinthians 3:14; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14; Philippians 2:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:19 f. It is the ἄφθαρτος στέφανος of the faithful labour in teaching, 1 Corinthians 9:25 ff.; 2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 5:4. The reference to the contents of the teaching (Emmerling: “tale munus quum habeam tantorum honorum spem ostendens”), to which Rückert is also inclined, is opposed to the words used and to the context. As little are we to assume, with Neander, an equalization of the ἐλπίς with the πεποίθησις, 2 Corinthians 3:4, and a linking on of the thought to 2 Corinthians 3:4.

πολλῇ παῤῥησίᾳ χρώμ.] denotes the frank unreservedness and openness towards those with whom the teacher has to do: μετʼ ἐλευθερίας πανταχοῦ φθεγγόμεθα, οὐδὲν ἀποκρυπτόμενοι, οὐδὲν ὑποστελλόμενοι, οὐδὲν ὑφορώμενοι, ἀλλὰ σαφῶς λέγοντες, Chrysostom. The evidentia (Beza, comp. Mosheim) or perspicuitas (Castalio) belongs to this, but does not exhaust the idea. On χρώμ. παῤῥησ., comp. Plato, Ep. 8, p. 354 A Phaedr. p. 240 E χρῶμ. is utimur, not utamur (Erasmus).


Verse 13

2 Corinthians 3:13. A negative amplification of the πολλῇ παῤῥησίᾳ χρώμεθα by comparison with the opposite conduct of Mose.

καὶ οὐ] sc. τίθεμεν κάλυμμα ἐπὶ τὸ πρόσωπον ἡμῶν, according to the Greek way of putting the verb, which is common to the principal and subordinate clause, in the subordinate clause, and adapting it to the subject of that clause. See Heindorf, ad Gorg. p. 592 A Winer, p. 542 [E. T. 728]; Kühner, II. p. 609. The meaning of the allegorical language is: “and we do not go to work veiling ourselves (dissembling), as Moses did, veiling his countenance, that the Israelites might not,” etc. See Exodus 34:33-35.

πρὸς τὸ μὴ ἀτενίσαι κ. τ. λ.] the purpose, which Moses had in veiling his radiant face while he spoke to the people: the people were not (as they would otherwise have done) to fix their gaze on the τέλος τοῦ καταργουμένον (see below). In order to free Moses from a dissimulation, Wolf explained it: “ut indicaretur eos non posse intueri,” which, however, is not conveyed in the words, and is not to be supported by Luke 18:1; and Schulz and Flatt, following older commentators, explain that πρὸς κ. τ. λ. means so that, etc., which, however, is wrong both as to the usage of the words (comp. Fritzsche, ad Matth. v. 28, p. 231) and as to the connection of ideas, since the πολλῇ παῤῥ. χρ. of 2 Corinthians 3:12 presupposes the intentional character of the opposite procedure. The latter remark applies also in opposition to de Wette (comp. before him, Beza and Calvin), who takes πρὸς κ. τ. λ. not of the intention, but of the divine aim, according to the well-known Biblical teleology, in which the result is regarded as aimed at by God, Isaiah 6:9; Matthew 13:11 ff.; Luke 8:10. In this way a conscious concealment on the part of Moses is removed; but without sufficient ground, since that concealment must not have been regarded by Paul as immoral (“fraudulenter,” Fritzsche), and with his reverence for the holy lawgiver and prophet cannot have been so regarded, but rather, in keeping with the preparatory destination of the Mosaic system, as a paedagogic measure which Moses adopted according to God’s command, but the purpose of which falls away with the emergence of that which is abiding, i.e. of the ministry of the gospel (Galatians 4:1 ff.). Finally, the argument of usage is also against de Wette, for in the N. T. by the telic πρὸς τό and infinitive there is never expressed the objective, divinely-arranged aim (which is denoted by ἵνα and ὅπως), but always the subjective purpose, which one has in an action (Matthew 5:28; Matthew 6:1; Matthew 13:30; Matthew 23:5; Mark 13:22; Ephesians 6:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8; James 3:3, Elzevir; also Matthew 26:12). The point of comparison is the “tecte agere” (Fritzsche), which was done by Moses with the purpose specified through the veiling of his face (not through the figures in which he veiled the truth, as de Wette, following Mosheim, imports), but is not done by the teachers of the gospel, since they go to work in their ministry freely and frankly (2 Corinthians 3:12). The context furnishes nothing further than this, not even what Hofmann finds in the κ. οὐ καθαπ. ΄. κ. τ. λ.(165) As little are we to suppose arbitrarily, with Klöpper, that Paul had in mind not so much Moses himself as his successors (?), the Judaists.

εἰς τὸ τέλος τοῦ καταργ.] τὸ τέλος, by its very connection with τοῦ καταργ., is fixed to the meaning end, and not final aim (Osiander) or completion;(166) and τοῦ καταργ. must be the same as was meant by τὸ καταργούμενον in the application intended by Paul of the general proposition in 2 Corinthians 3:11. Consequently it cannot be masculine (Luther, Vatablus; even Rückert is not disinclined to this view), nor can it denote the Mosaic religion, the end of which is Christ (Romans 10:4), as, following Chrysostom, Theodoret, and Theophylact, most expositors, including Flatt and Osiander, think, against which, however, even Moses’ own prophecy (Deuteronomy 18:15), according to the Messianic interpretation then universal, would militate; but it must be the ministry of Moses, which is passing away, see on 2 Corinthians 3:11. The Israelites were not intended, in Paul’s opinion, at that time to contemplate the end of this ministry, which was to cease through the ministry of the gospel; therefore Moses veiled his face.(167) By what means (according to the apostle’s view), if Moses had not veiled himself, they would have seen the end of his office, is apparent from 2 Corinthians 3:7, namely, by the disappearance of the splendour, the departure of which would have typically presented to them the termination of the διακονία of Moses.(168) But not on this account are we to explain (with the scholiast in Matthaei and others, including Stolz, Billroth, Olshausen, de Wette, Ewald,(169) Hofmann) τὸ καταργ. of the transient splendour itself (2 Corinthians 3:7), which is forbidden by 2 Corinthians 3:11, and would be a confusion of the type and antitype.


Verse 14

2 Corinthians 3:14. ἀλλʼ ἐπωρώθη κ. τ. λ.] This ἀλλά does not refer to the thought implied in the previous πρὸς τὸ μὴ ἀτενίσαι κ. τ. λ., that the Jews did not contemplate the end of the Mosaic ministry, for this was made impossible to them, in fact, by Moses himself and according to his own intention. What Billroth imports into ἀλλά is therefore also unsuitable: “but instead there were hardened,” etc. Flatt, Rückert, de Wette, Hofmann (comp. also Olshausen) take the connection rightly, that over against the utterance treating of the holders of the apostolic office, 2 Corinthians 3:12 f., stands that which speaks of Israel. Accordingly ἀλλά is at, nevertheless.

ἐπωρώθη] Paul does not here say by whom this certainly passive (in opposition to Theodoret) hardness of heart(170) has been caused. It may be conceived as produced by God (Romans 11 ff., comp. John 12:39 f.; Acts 28:26) just as well as by the devil (2 Corinthians 4:4, comp. Matthew 13:19), these two ways of regarding it not being contradictory to each other. The aorist denotes the hardness of heart which set in later after their intercourse with Moses, but in connection with the insight then rendered impossible to them. πεπώρωται would have meant something else. On νοήματα, thoughts, the products of the νοῦς, of the exercise of the theoretic and practical reason, which, through the hardness of heart, become inaccessible to, and insusceptible of, the perception of the divine, comp. on Philippians 4:7.

ἄχρι γὰρ κ. τ. λ.] A proof, in accordance with experience, for what was just said ἐπωρώθη κ. τ. λ.

τὸ αὐτὸ κάλυ΄΄α ἐπὶ κ. τ. λ.] The same veil is, of course, to be understood, not of material identity, but symbolically of the likeness of the spiritual hindrance. Without figure the meaning is: the same incapacity for recognising the end of the Mosaic ministry, which was produced among them then by the veil of Moses, remains with them to this day when the Old Covenant is read.

ἐπὶ τῇ ἀναγνώσει] Paul conceives the public reading of the O. T. every Sabbath (Acts 15:21) as overlaid with the veil hindering knowledge; still we need not assume, with Wolf, Michaelis, Semler, and others, a reference to the טַלִּית (see Lakemacher, Obss. III. p. 209 ff.) with which the Jews veiled themselves at the reading of the law and at prayer, because otherwise Paul must have made the veil fall on the countenances of the Jews, and not on the public reading. But he has conceived to himself the matter so, that the public reading takes place under the veil enwrapping this act, so that in this reading the Jews remain shut out from insight into the new covenant. 2 Corinthians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 3:15 preclude us from abandoning the local signification of ἐπί, on. The explanation, “when there is public reading” (Hofmann), confuses the meaning with the sensuous, but in relation to the context appropriate, form of presenting it.

τῆς παλ. διαθήκης] For when the law of Moses is publicly read, there is read the old covenant (comp. on 2 Corinthians 3:6) therein set forth. This is the contents of the public reading. Comp. 2 Corinthians 3:15 : ἀναγινώσκεται ΄ωϋσῆς. παλ. διαθ. does not mean the books of the O. T., as is here usually suppose.

΄ὴ ἀνακαλυπτό΄ενον, ὅτι ἐν χ. καταργεῖται] These words in themselves admit of two explanations; the first refers the participle and καταργεῖται to τὸ κάλυ΄΄α, and takes ὅτι in the sense of because, as specifying the ground of the μὴ ἀνακαλ. (so most of the older expositors, and recently Fritzsche, Billroth, Schrader, Olshausen, de Wette, Neander, Hofmann, comp. Ewald): without being uncovered, because it is annihilated in Christ (the veil), but Christ is not preached to them. On ἀνακαλύπτειν κάλυ΄΄α, to uncover a veil, comp. LXX. Deuteronomy 22:29 : οὐκ ἀνακαλύψαι συγκάλυμμα τοῦ πατρός. But against this view (a) καταργεῖται seems decisive, which, according to the context (see 2 Corinthians 3:11; 2 Corinthians 3:13), cannot apply to the taking away of the veil, but only to the abolition of the Mosaic ministry, or according to the connection of 2 Corinthians 3:14, to the abolition of the old covenant, which is the object of the Mosaic ministry (comp. also Romans 3:31; Ephesians 2:15); and hence Paul, 2 Corinthians 3:16, does not use καταργεῖται of the removal of the veil, but περιαιρεῖται, which signifies the same thing as ἀνακαλύπτεται. (b) If μὴ ἀνακαλυπτόμενον were to refer to τὸ αὐτὸ κάλυμμα, then κάλυμμα in the contrast introduced by ἀλλά in 2 Corinthians 3:15 would necessarily be the same veil, of which ΄ὴ ἀνακαλύπτ. would be here said, and Paul must therefore at 2 Corinthians 3:15 have written τὸ κάλυ΄΄α with the article. Hence the second method of explanation(171) is to be preferred, according to which the participle is taken absolutely, and ὅτι as that, while καταργεῖται is referred to the παλ. διαθήκη, thus: while it is not disclosed (unveiled),(172) it remains hidden from the Jews, that in Christ the old covenant is done away, that in Christ—in His appearance and in His work—the abolition of the Old Covenant takes place (Romans 10:4; Colossians 2:14). The whole is thus a more precise practical definition of the previous τὸ αὐτὸ κάλυμμαμένει. This absolute appositional use of the neuter participle (to be regarded as accusative, though viewed by Hermann and others as nominative) is a current Greek idiom in impersonal phrases. See Hermann, ad Viger. p. 769; Bernhardy, p. 471; Krüger, § lvi. 9. 5; Maetzner, ad Antiph. p. 176. Hence Rückert is without reason in referring μὴ ἀνακαλύπτ. to τὸ κάλυμμα, and yet understanding ὅτι as that and καταργεῖται of the Old Covenant, whereby the unwarranted importation of a thought becomes necessary, namely, to this effect: “the same veil rests on the reading of the O. T. and is not uplifted, so that it (the people) might perceive that it (the O. T.) has its end in Christ.” Luther’s translation (comp. Erasmus, Beza, and Heumann) follows the reading , τι (Elzevir), which Scholz also has again taken up. This , τι would have to be explained as quippe quod (velamen), and would give from the nature of the veil (Kühner, ad Xen. Mem. ii. 1. 30) the information why it remains unlifted,—an interpretation, however, which would only be compatible with the first view given above, and even with that would be unnecessar.

καταργεῖται] present; for the fact, that in Christ the Old Covenant is abolished, is laid down in theoretical form as an article of faith, as a truth which remains veiled from the Jews so long as they are not converted to Christ (2 Corinthians 3:16).


Verses 14-18

2 Corinthians 3:14-18. Sad contrast which the procedure of the preachers of the gospel indicated in 2 Corinthians 3:12-13—so wholly different from the procedure of Moses—meets with in the hardening of Israel. How far off are they to this day from divine freedom! how altogether different, however (2 Corinthians 3:18), it is with us Christians!


Verse 15

2 Corinthians 3:15. ἀλλʼ] opposite of the μὴ ἀνακαλ., ὅτι ἐν χ. καταργ., but no longer connected with γάρ, 2 Corinthians 3:14 (Hofmann), since the apostle does not again mean the particular veil (that of Moses) to which the confirmatory clause introduced with γάρ, 2 Corinthians 3:14, referred. It is not disclosed, that, etc.; till to-day, on the contrary, there lies a veil, etc.; till to-day, whenever ( ἄν, in whatsoever case) Moses is publicly read, their insight (comp. previously ἐπωρώθη, etc.) is hindered and prevented. The figurative expression does not again represent the veil of Moses, for otherwise τὸ κάλυμμα must necessarily (in opposition to Hofmann) have been used, but generally a veil, and that one placed over ( ἐπί with acc.) the heart (here regarded as the centre of the practical intelligence, comp. 2 Corinthians 4:6; Romans 1:21; and see on Ephesians 1:18; Krumm, de not. psych. P. p. 50; Delitzsch, Psychol, p. 248 f.; Hahn, Theol. d. N. T. I. p. 460) of the hearers. The impersonal μὴ ἀνακαλυπτόμ. of 2 Corinthians 3:14 induced the apostle very naturally and with logical suitableness, not to use again in the contrast of 2 Corinthians 3:15, with its emphatic stress laid on the point ἕως σήμερον, that historical image of the veil of Moses, but to express the conception generally of a veil hindering perception (lying on the heart). The same thing, therefore, is expressed in two forms of one figure; the first form gives the figure historically (the veil of Moses on the ἀνάγνωσις τ. παλ. διαθ.); the second form, apart from that historical reference, gives it as moulded by the apostle’s own vivid imagination (a veil upon the heart at the public reading). Fritzsche (comp. Al. Morus in Wolf) assumes that Paul imagines to himself two veils, one on the public reading of the Old Covenant, the other on the hearers’ own hearts, by which he wishes to mark the high degree of their inaptitude for perceiving. But, in order to be understood, and in keeping with a state of things so peculiar, he must have brought this out definitely and emphatically, and have at least written in 2 Corinthians 3:15 : ἀλλʼ΄ωϋσῆς, καὶ ἐπὶ τὴν καρδίαν αὐτῶν κάλυμμα κεῖται.

ἡνίκα] at the hour when, quando, after Hom. Od. 22:198 frequent in the classic writers, but in the N. T. only here and at 2 Corinthians 3:16. Often used in the Apocrypha and the LXX. also at Exodus 34:34; and perhaps the word was suggested by the recollection of this passage.

On ἀναγινώσκ. ΄ωϋσ. comp. Acts 15:21.


Verse 16

2 Corinthians 3:16. When, however, it shall have turned to the Lord, shall have come to believe on Christ, the veil, which lies on their heart (2 Corinthians 3:15), is taken away; i.e., when Moses is read before them, it will no longer remain unperceived by them that the Old Covenant ceases in Christ. The subject to ἐπιστρέψῃ is καρδία αὐτῶν, 2 Corinthians 3:15 (Luther in the gloss, Beza, Grotius, Bengel, and several others, including Billroth, Olshausen, de Wette, Hofmann), not ἰσραήλ (Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, Pelagius, Erasmus, and many others, including Osiander), nor ΄ωϋσῆς (Calvin, Estius(173)), nor the general τίς (Origen, Storr, Flatt).

The common supposition, that in 2 Corinthians 3:16 there is an allegorical reference to Moses, who, returning from the people to God, conversed unveiled with God (Exodus 34:34), is in itself probable from the context, and is confirmed even by the choice of the words (Ex. l.c.: ἡνίκα δʼ ἂν εἰσεπορεύετο ΄. ἔναντι κυρίουπεριῃρεῖτο τὸ κάλυμμα), though the same veil with which Moses was veiled ( τὸ αὐτὸ κάλ., 2 Corinthians 3:14) is no longer spoken of, but a veil on the hearts of the Jew.

ἡνίκα with ἄν and the subjunctive aorist(174) denotes: then, when it shall have turned (Luther wrongly: when it turned itself), and that as something conceived, thought of, not as an unconditioned fact. The πρὸς κύριον, however, does not affirm: to God, who is now revealed in the Lord (Hofmann), but, in simple accordance with ἐν χριστῷ of 2 Corinthians 3:15 : to Christ. The conversion of Israel which Paul has in view is, now that it is wholly relegated to the experience of the future, the conversion as a whole, Romans 11:25. It was, however, obvious of itself that what is affirmed finds its application to all individual cases which had already occurred and were still to be expecte.

περιαιρ. has the emphasis, both of its important position at the head of the clause (removed is the veil) and of the future realized as present. The passive is all the more to be retained, seeing that the subject of ἐπιστρ. is the heart; the sense of self-liberation (Hofmann) may not be imported on account of Exodus 34:34. The conversion and deliverance of Israel is God’s work. See 2 Corinthians 3:17 and Romans 11:26 f. The compound corresponds to the conception of the veil covering the heart round about. Comp. Plato, Polit. p. 288 E: δέρματα σωμάτων περιαιροῦσα, Dem. 125,26: περιεῖλε τὰ τείχη, 802, 5 : περιῃρηται τοὺς στεφάνους, Judith 10:3 : τὸν σάκκον, Baruch 4:34; Baruch 6:58; Acts 27:40.


Verse 17

2 Corinthians 3:17. Remark giving information regarding what is asserted in 2 Corinthians 3:16.

δέ, [the German] aber, appends not something of contrast, i.e. to Moses, who is the letter (Hofmann), but a clause elucidating what was just said, περιαιρ. τὸ κάλ.,(175) equivalent to namely. See Hermann, ad Viger. p. 845; Hartung, Partikell. I. p. 167. Rückert (comp. de Wette) is of a different opinion, holding that there is here a continued chain of reasoning, so that Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:16-17 means to say: “When the people of Israel shall have turned to the Lord, then will the κάλυμμα be taken from it; and when this shall have happened, it will also attain the freedom (from the yoke of the law) which is at present wanting to it.” But, because in that case the ἐλευθερία would be a more important point than the taking away of the veil, 2 Corinthians 3:18 must have referred back not to the latter, but to the former. Seeing, however, that 2 Corinthians 3:18 refers back to the taking away of the veil, it is clear that 2 Corinthians 3:17 is only an accessory sentence, which is intended to remove every doubt regarding the περιαιρεῖται τὸ κάλυ΄΄α.(176) Besides, if Rückert were right, Paul would have continued his discourse illogically; the logical continuation would have been, 2 Corinthians 3:17 : οὔ δὲ περιαιρεῖται τὸ κάλυ΄΄α, τὸ πνεῦ΄α κυρίου ἐστίν· οὔ δὲ τὸ πν. κυρ. κ. τ. λ.

δὲ κύριος τὸ πνεῦ΄α ἐστιν] κύριος is subject, not (as Chrysostom, Theodoret, Oecumenius, Theophylact, Estius, Schulz held, partly in the interest of opposition to Arianism) predicate, which would be possible in itself, but cannot be from the connection with 2 Corinthians 3:16.(177) The words, however, cannot mean: Dominus significat Spiritum (Wetstein), because previously the conversion to Christ, to the actual personal Christ, was spoken of; they can only mean: the Lord, however, is the Spirit, i.e. the Lord, however, to whom the heart is converted (note the article) is not different from the (Holy) Spirit, who is received, namely, in conversion, and (see what follows) is the divine life-power that makes free. That this was meant not of hypostatical identity, but according to the dynamical oeconomic point of view, that the fellowship of Christ, into which we enter through conversion, is the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, was obvious of itself to the believing consciousness of the readers, and is also put beyond doubt by the following τὸ πνεῦμα κυρίου. And Christ is the Spirit in so far as at conversion, and generally in the whole arrangements of salvation, He communicates Himself in the Holy Spirit, and this Spirit is His Spirit, the living principle of the influence and indwelling of Christ,—certainly the living ground of life in the church, and the spirit of its life (Hofmann), but as such just the Holy Spirit, in whom the Lord reveals Himself as present and savingly active. The same thought is contained in Romans 8:9-11, as is clear especially from 2 Corinthians 3:10-11, where χριστός and τὸ πνεῦ΄α τοῦ ἐγείραντος ἰησοῦν and πνεῦ΄α χριστοῦ (2 Corinthians 3:9) appear to be identical as the indwelling principle of the Christian being and life, so that there must necessarily lie at the bottom of it the idea: χριστὸς τὸ πνεῦ΄α ἐστι. Comp. Galatians 2:20; Galatians 4:6, Philippians 1:19, Acts 20:28, along with Ephesians 4:11. As respects His immanence, therefore, in His people, Christ is the Spirit. Comp. also Krummel, l.c. p. 97, who rightly remarks that, if Christ calls Himself the light, the way, the truth, etc., all this is included in the proposition: “the Lord is the Spirit.” Fritzsche, Dissert. I. p. 42, takes it: Dominus est ita Sp. St. perfusus, ut totus quasi τὸ πνεῦμα sit. So also Rückert, who nevertheless (following Erasmus and Beza) believes it necessary to explain the article before πνεῦμα by retrospective reference to 2 Corinthians 3:6; 2 Corinthians 3:8.(178) But in that case the whole expression would be reduced to a mere quasi, with which the further inference οὗ δὲ τὸ πνεῦμα κυρίου would not be logically in accord; besides, according to analogy of Scripture elsewhere, it cannot be said of the exalted Christ (and yet it is He that is meant), “Spiritu sancto perfusus est,” or “Spiritu gaudet divino,” an expression which can only belong to Christ in His earthly state (Luke 1:35; Mark 1:10; Acts 1:2; Acts 10:38); whereas the glorified Christ is the sender of the Spirit, the possessor and disposer (comp. also Revelation 3:1; Revelation 4:5; Revelation 5:6), and therewith Lord of the Spirit, 2 Corinthians 3:18. The weakened interpretation: “Christ, however, imparts the Spirit” (Piscator, L. Cappellus, Scultetus, and others, including Emmerling and Fiatt), is at variance with the words, and is not to be supported by passages like John 14:6, since in these the predicates are not concretes but abstracts. In keeping with the view and the expression in the present passage are those Johannine passages in which Christ promises the communication of the Spirit to the disciples as His own return (John 14:18, al.). Others have departed from the simple sense of the words “Christ is the Spirit,” either by importing into τὸ πνεῦμα another meaning than that of the Holy Spirit, or by not taking κύριος to signify the personal Christ. The former course is inadmissible, partly on account of the following οὗ δὲ τὸ πνεῦμα κυρίον, partly because the absolute τὸ πνεῦμα admits of no other meaning whatever than the habitual one; the latter is made impossible by 2 Corinthians 3:16. Among those adhering to the former view are Morus: “Quum Dominum dico, intelligo illam divinitus datam religionis scientiam;” Erasmus and Calvin: “that τὸ πνεῦμα is the spirit of the law, which only becomes viva et vivifica, si a Christo inspiretur, whereby the spirit comes to the body;” also Olshausen: “the Lord now is just the Spirit, of which there was mention above” (2 Corinthians 3:6); by this is to be understood the spiritual institute, the economy of the Spirit; Christ, namely, fills His church with Himself; hence it is itself Christ. Comp. Ewald, according to whom Christ is designated, in contrast to the letter and compulsion of law, as the Spirit absolutely (just as God is, John 4:24). Similarly Neander. To this class belongs also the interpretation of Baur, which, in spite of the article in τὸ πνεῖμα, amounts to this, that Christ in His substantial existence is spirit, i.e. an immaterial substance composed of light;(179) comp. his neut. Theol. p. 18 7 f. See, on the contrary, Räbiger, Christol. Paul. p. 36 f.; Krummel, l.c. p. 79 ff. Among the adherents of the second mode of interpretation are Vorstius, Mosheim, Bolten: “ κύριος is the doctrine of Jesus;” also Billroth, who recognises as its meaning: “in the kingdom of the Lord the Spirit rules; the essence of Christianity is the Spirit of the Lord, which He confers on His own.” For many other erroneous interpretations (among which is included that of Estius, Calovius, and others, who refer κύριος to God, and so explain the words of the divinity of the Holy Spirit), see Pole and Wol.

ἐλευθερία] spiritual freedom in general, without special limitation.(180) To have a veil on the heart (see 2 Corinthians 3:15), and to be spiritually free, are opposite; hence the statement περιαιρεῖται τὸ κάλυμμα, 2 Corinthians 3:16, obtains elucidation by our ἐλευθερία. The veil on the heart hinders the spiritual activity, and makes it fettered; where, therefore, there is freedom, the veil must be away; but freedom must have its seat, where the Spirit of the Lord is, which Spirit carries on and governs all the thinking and willing, and removes all barriers external to its sway. That Paul has regard (Erasmus, Beza, Grotius, Bengel, Fritzsche) to the conception that the veil is an outward sign of subjection (1 Corinthians 11:10), is to be denied all the more, seeing that here what is spoken of is not a covering of the head (which would be the sign of a foreign ἐξουσία), as 1 Cor. l.c., but a veiling of the heart, 2 Corinthians 3:15.


Verse 18

2 Corinthians 3:18. The ἐλευθερία just mentioned is now further confirmed on an appeal to experience as in triumph, by setting forth the (free, unrestricted) relation of all Christians to the glory of Christ. The δέ is the simple μεταβατικόν, and forms the transition from the thing ( ἐλευθερία) to the persons, in whom the thing presents itself in definite form. For the freedom of him who has the Spirit of the Lord forms the contents of 2 Corinthians 3:18, and not simply the thought: “we, however, bear this Spirit of the Lord in us.”(181) Flatt and Rückert are quite arbitrary in attaching it to 2 Corinthians 3:14.

ἡμεῖς] refers to the Christians in general, as the connection, the added πάντες, and what is affirmed of ἡ΄εῖς, clearly prove. Erasmus, Cajetanus, Estius, Bengel, Michaelis, Nösselt, Stolz, Rosenmüller are wrong in thinking that it refers merely to the apostles and teachers.

The emphasis is not on πάντες (in which Theodoret, Theophylact, Bengel find a contrast to the one Moses), but on ἡμεῖς, in contrast to the Jews, “qui fidei carent oculis,” Erasmu.

ἀνακεκαλ. προσώπῳ] with unveiled countenance; for through our conversion to Christ our formerly confined and fettered spiritual intuition (knowledge) became free and unconfined, 2 Corinthians 3:16. After 2 Corinthians 3:15-16 we should expect ἀνακεκαλυμμένῃ καρδίᾳ; but Paul changes the figure, because he wishes here to represent the persons not as hearing (as in 2 Corinthians 3:15) but as seeing, and therewith his conception has manifestly returned to the history of Moses, who appeared before God with the veil removed, Exodus 34:34. Next to the subject ἡμεῖς, moreover, the emphasis lies on ἀνακεκαλ. προσώπῳ: “But we all, with unveiled countenance beholding the glory of the Lord in the mirror, become transformed to the same glory.” For if the beholding of the glory presented in the mirror should take place with covered face, the reflection of this glory (“speculi autem est lumen repercutere,” Emmerling) could not operate on the beholders to render them glorious, as, indeed, also in the case of Moses it was the unveiled countenance that received the radiation of the divine glor.

τὴν δόξαν κυρίου] said quite without limit of the whole glory of the exalted Christ(182). It is the divine, in so far as Christ is the bearer and reflection of the divine glory (Colossians 1:15; Colossians 2:9; John 17:5; Hebrews 1:3); but κυρίον does not (in opposition to Calvin and Estius) apply to God, on account of 2 Corinthians 3:16-17.

κατοπτριζόμενοι] beholding in the mirror. For we behold the glory of Christ in the mirror, inasmuch as we see not immediately its objective reality, which will only be the case in the future kingdom of God (John 17:24; 1 John 3:2; Colossians 3:3 f.; Romans 8:17 f.), but only its representation in the gospel; for the gospel is τὸ εὐαγγ. τῆς δόξης τοῦ χριστοῦ, 2 Corinthians 4:4, consequently, as it were, the mirror, in which the glory of Christ gives itself to be seen and shines in its very image to the eye of faith; hence the believing heart (Osiander), which is rather the organ of beholding, cannot be conceived as the mirror. Hunnius aptly remarks that Paul is saying, “nos non ad modum Judaeorum caecutire, sed retecta facie gloriam Domini in evangelii speculo relucentem intueri.” Comp. 1 Corinthians 13:12, where likewise the gospel is conceived of as a mirror, as respects, however, the still imperfect vision which it brings about. κατοπτρίζω in the active means to mirror, i.e. to show in the mirror (Plut. Mor. p. 894 D); but in the middle it means among the Greeks to look into, to behold oneself in a mirror. To this head belong Athen. xv. p. 687 C, and all the passages in Wetstein, also Artemidorus, ii. 7, which passage is erroneously adduced by Wolf and others for the meaning: “to see in the mirror.” But this latter signification, which is that occurring in the passage now before us, is unquestionably found in Philo (Loesner, Obss. p. 304). See especially Alleg. p. 79 E: μηδὲ κατοπτρισαίμην ἐν ἄλλῳ τινὶ τὴν σὴν ἰδέαν ἐν σοὶ τῷ θεῷ. Pelagius (“contemplamur”), Grotius,(183) Rückert, and others quite give up the conception of a mirror, and retain only the notion of beholding; but this is mere caprice, which quite overlooks as well the correct position of the case to which the word aptly corresponds, as also the reference which the following εἰκόνα has to the conception of the mirror. Chrysostom and his successors, Luther, Calovius, Bengel, and others, including Billroth and Olshausen, think that κατοπτρίζεσθαι means to reflect, to beam back the lustre, so that, in parallel with Moses, the glory of Christ is beaming; καθαρὰ καρδία τῆς θείας δόξης οἷόν τι ἐκμαγεῖον καὶ κάτοπτρον γίνεται, Theodoret. Comp. Erasmus, Paraphr., and Luther’s gloss: “as the mirror catches an image, so our heart catches the knowledge of Christ.” But at variance with the usage of the language, for the middle never has this meaning; and at variance with the context, for ἀνακεκαλ. προσώπῳ must, according to 2 Corinthians 3:14-17, refer to the conception of free and unhindered seeing.

τὴν αὐτὴν εἰκόνα μεταμορφ.] we become transformed to the same image, i.e. become so transformed that the same image which we see in the mirror—the image of the glory of Christ—presents itself on us, i.e. as regards the substantial meaning: we are so transformed that we become like to the glorified Christ. Now, seeing that this transformation appears as caused by and contemporaneous with ἀνακεκ. προσ. τ. δόξ. κ. κατοπτρ., consequently not as a future sudden act (like the transfiguration at the Parousia, 1 Corinthians 15:51 f.; comp. Philippians 3:21), but as something at present in the course of development, it can only be the spiritual transformation to the very likeness of the glorified Christ(184) that is meant (comp. 2 Peter 1:4; Galatians 4:19; Galatians 2:20), and not the future δόξα (Grotius, Fritzsche, Olshausen would have it included). Against this latter may be urged also the subsequent καθάπερ ἀπὸ κυρίου πνεύματος, which has its reference precisely to the spiritual transformation, that takes place in the present αἰών, and the sequel of which is the future Messianic glory to which we are called (1 Thessalonians 2:12; Romans 8:30); so that the present spiritual process, the καινότης ζωῆς (Romans 6:4) and πνεύ΄ατος (Romans 7:6)—the spiritual being risen with and living with Christ (Romans 6:5 ff.)—experiences at the Parousia also the corresponding outward συνδοξασθῆναι with Christ, and is thus completed, Colossians 3:4.

τὴν αὐτὴν εἰκόνα] is not to be explained either by supplying κατά or εἰς, or by quoting the analogy of παρακαλεῖσθαι παράκλησιν and the like (Hofmann), but the construction of ΄ετα΄ορφοῦν with the accusative is formed quite like the commonly occurring combination of ΄εταβάλλειν with the accusative in the sense: to assume a shape through alteration or transmutation undergone. See Stallbaum, ad Plat. Rep. p. 424 C. The passive turn given to it, in which the accusative remains unaltered (Krüger, § lii. 4. 6; Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 164 [E. T. 190]), yields therefore the sense: we are so transformed, that we get thereby the same image.

ἀπὸ δόξης εἰς δόξαν] i.e. so that this transformation issues from glory (viz. from the glory of Christ beheld in the mirror and reflected on us), and has glory as its result (namely, our glory, see above). Comp. 2 Corinthians 2:16, also Romans 1:17. So in the main the Greek Fathers (yet referring ἀπὸ δόξης, according to their view of ἀπὸ κυρίον πνεύ΄ατος, to the glory of the Holy Spirit), Vatablus, Bengel, Fritzsche, Billroth, and others, also Hofmann. But most expositors (including Flatt, Rückert, Olshausen, de Wette, Osiander, Ewald) explain it of ascending to ever higher (and at length highest, 1 Corinthians 15:51 ff.) glory. Comp. ἐκ δυνάμεως εἰς δύναμιν, Psalms 84:7, also Jeremiah 9:2. In this way, however, the correlation of this ἀπό with the following ( ἀπὸ κυρ. πν.) is neglected, although for ἀπὸ εἰς expressions like ἀπὸ θαλάσσης εἰς θάλασσαν (Xen. Hell. i. 3. 4) might be compare.

καθάπερ ἀπὸ κυρίου πνεύματος] so as from the Lord of the Spirit, people, namely, are transformed, μεταμόρφωσις γίνεται. In this there lies a confirmation of the asserted τὴ αὐτήν δόξαν. Erasmus rightly observes: “ ὡς hic non sonat similitudinem sed congruentiam.” Comp. 2 Corinthians 2:17; John 1:14, al. Lord of the Spirit (the words are rightly so connected by “neoterici quidam” in Estius, Emmerling, Vater, Fritzsche, Billroth, Olshausen, de Wette, Ewald, Osiander, Kling, Krummel; comp. however, also at an earlier date, Erasmus, Annot.) is Christ, in so far as the operation of the Holy Spirit depends on Christ; for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:17; Romans 8:9 f.; Galatians 4:6), in so far as Christ Himself rules through the Spirit in the hearts (Romans 8:10; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 3:16 f.); the sending of the Spirit(185) is brought about through Christ (Titus 3:6), and by His operations service is done to Christ (1 Corinthians 12:5). Here, too, the relation of subordination in the divine, Trinity is most distinctly expressed.(186) Why, however, is Christ here named κύριος πνεύμστος? Because that spiritual metamorphosis, which proceeds from Christ, cannot take place otherwise than by the influence of the Holy Spirit on us. The explanations: a Domini spiritu, (Syriac, Vulgate, Augustine, Theophylact, Pelagius, Erasmus, Castalio, Calvin, Grotius, Bengel, and others, including Schrader and Hofmann) and a Domino spiritu, i.e. a Domino qui est spiritus (Chrysostom: ὅρα πῶς καὶ ἐνταῦθα τὸ πνεῦμα κύριον καλεῖ, Theodoret, Valla, Luther, Beza, Calovius, Wolf, Estius, and several others, including Flatt and Neander(187)), agree, indeed, with the doctrine of the Trinity as formulated by the church, but deviate without reason or warrant from the normal order of the words (comp. 2 Corinthians 3:17, and see Buttmann, neut. Gramm. p. 295 [E. T. 343]), in particular, from the genitive-relation which quite obviously suggests itself. Rückert hesitatingly allows a choice between the two erroneous views.

 


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Bibliography Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 3:4". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/2-corinthians-3.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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