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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament
2 Corinthians 3

 

 

Verse 1

To commend ourselves? (εαυτους συνιστανεινheautous sunistaneiṅ). Late (Koiné{[28928]}š) form of συνιστημιsunistēmi to place one with another, to introduce, to commend. Paul is sensitive over praising himself, though his enemies compelled him to do it.

Epistles of commendation (συστατικων επιστολωνsustatikōn epistolōn). Late verbal adjective from συνιστημιsunistēmi and often in the papyri and in just this sense. In the genitive case here after χρηιζομενchrēizomen Such letters were common as seen in the papyri (Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, p. 226). N.T. examples of commending individuals by letters occur in Acts 15:25.; Acts 18:27 (Apollos), 1 Corinthians 16:10. (Timothy); Romans 16:1 (Phoebe with the verb συνιστημιsunistēmi); Colossians 4:10 (Mark); 2 Corinthians 8:22. (Titus and his companion).


Verse 2

Ye are our epistle (η επιστολη ημων υμεις εστεhē epistolē hēmōn humeis este). Bold turn. Paul was writing in their hearts.

Known and read (γινωσκομενη και αναγινωσκομενηginōskomenē kai anaginōskomenē). Play on the word. Literally true. Professing Christians are the Bible that men read and know.


Verse 3

An epistle of Christ (επιστολη Χριστουepistolē Christou). He turns the metaphor round and round. They are Christ‘s letter to men as well as Paul‘s.

Not with ink (ου μελανιou melani). Instrumental case of μελαςmelas black. Plato uses το μελανto melan for ink as here. See also 2 John 1:12; 3 John 1:13.

Of stone (λιτιναιςlithinais). Composed of stone (λιτοςlithos and ending ινος̇inos).

Of flesh (σαρκιναιςsarkinais). “Fleshen” as in 1 Corinthians 3:1; Romans 7:14.


Verse 4

Through Christ (δια του Χριστουdia tou Christou). It is not self-conceit on Paul‘s part, but through Christ.


Verse 5

Of ourselves (απ εαυτωνaph' heautōn). Starting from ourselves (reflexive pronoun).

As from ourselves (ως εχ αυτωνhōs ex hautōn). He says it over again with preposition εχex (out of). He has no originating power for such confidence.

Sufficiency (ικανοτηςhikanotēs). Old word, only here in N.T.


Verse 6

Who also made us sufficient for such confidence (ος και ικανωσεν ημαςhos kai hikanōsen hēmas). Late causative verb from ικανοςhikanos (2 Corinthians 3:5) first aorist active indicative, “who (God) rendered us fit.” In N.T. only here and Colossians 1:12.

As ministers of a new covenant (διακονους καινης διατηκηςdiakonous kainēs diathēkēs). Predicate accusative with ικανωσενhikanōsen For διατηκηdiathēkē see note on Matthew 26:28 and for διακονοςdiakonos see note on Matthew 20:26 and for καινηςkainēs (fresh and effective) see Luke 5:38. Only God can make us that.


Verse 7

Of death (του τανατουtou thanatou). Subjective genitive, marked by death in its outcome (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:56; Galatians 3:10). The letter kills.

Engraven on stones (εντετυπωμενη λιτοιςentetupōmenē lithois). Perfect passive participle of εντυποωentupoō late verb, to imprint a figure (τυποςtupos). Used by Aristeas (67) of the “inlaid” work on the table sent by Ptolemy Philadelphus to Jerusalem. ΛιτοιςLithois in locative case.

Came with glory (εγενητη εν δοχηιegenēthē en doxēi). In glory. As it did, condition of first class, assumed as true. See Exodus 34:29, Exodus 34:35.

Look steadfastly (ατενισαιatenisai). Late verb from ατενηςatenēs (stretched, intent, τεινωteinō and αa intensive) as in Luke 4:20; Acts 3:4.

Was passing away (καταργουμενηνkatargoumenēn). Late verb, to render of no effect, and present passive participle here as in 1 Corinthians 2:6.


Verse 8

How shall not rather? (πως ουχι μαλλονpōs ouchi malloṅ). Argumentum a minore ad majus (from the less to the greater).

Of the spirit (του πνευματοςtou pneumatos). Marked by the spirit. Picture of the Christian ministry now.


Verse 9

Of condemnation (της κατακρισεωςtēs katakriseōs). Genitive, that brings condemnation because unable to obey the law.

Is glory (δοχαdoxa). No copula, but makes the figure bolder. Paul freely admits the glory for the old dispensation.

Of righteousness (της δικαιοσυνηςtēs dikaiosunēs). Marked by and leading to righteousness. See note on 2 Corinthians 11:15.

Much more (πολλωι μαλλονpollōi mallon). Instrumental case, by much more.

Exceed (περισσευειperisseuei). Overflow.


Verse 10

In this respect (εν τουτωι τωι μερειen toutōi tōi merei). The glory on the face of Moses was temporary, though real, and passed away (2 Corinthians 3:7), a type of the dimming of the glory of the old dispensation by the brightness of the new. The moon makes a dim light after the sun rises, “is not glorified” (ου δεδοχασταιou dedoxastai perfect passive indicative of δοχαζωdoxazō).

By reason of the glory that surpasseth (εινεκεν της υπερβαλλουσης δοχηςheineken tēs huperballousēs doxēs). The surpassing (υπερβαλλωhupeṙballō throwing beyond) glory. Christ as the Sun of Righteousness has thrown Moses in the shade. Cf. the claims of superiority by Christ in Matthew 5-7.


Verse 11

Passeth away (καταργουμενονkatargoumenon). In process of disappearing before the gospel of Christ.

Remaineth (μενονmenon). The new ministry is permanent. This claim may be recommended to those who clamour for a new religion. Christianity is still alive and is not dying. Note also εν δοχηιen doxēi in glory, in contrast with δια δοχηςdia doxēs with glory.

Boldness (παρρησιαιparrēsiāi). Instrumental case after χρωμεταchrōmetha Old word, πανρησισπαρρησιςpanrēsiŝparrēsis telling it all, absolute unreservedness. Surely Paul has kept nothing back here, no mental reservations, in this triumphant claim of superiority.


Verse 13

Put a veil upon his face (ετιτει καλυμμα επι το προσωπον αυτουetithei kalumma epi to prosōpon autou). Imperfect active of τιτημιtithēmi used to put (Exodus 34:33).

That the children of Israel should not look steadfastly (προς το μη ατενισαι τους υιουςpros to mē atenisai tous huious). Purpose expressed by προςpros and the articular infinitive with negative μηmē and the accusative of general reference. The Authorized Version had a wrong translation here as if to hide the glory on his face.


Verse 14

But their minds were hardened (αλλα επωρωτη τα νοηματα αυτωνalla epōrōthē ta noēmata autōn). Their thoughts (νοηματαnoēmata) literally. ΠωροωPōroō (first aorist passive indicative here) is late verb from πωροςpōros hard skin, to cover with thick skin (callus), to petrify. See note on Mark 6:52 and Mark 8:17.

Of the old covenant (tēs palaias diathēkēs). The Old Testament. Palaios (ancient) in contrast to της παλαιας διατηκηςkainos (fresh, 2 Corinthians 3:6). See note on Matthew 13:52.

The same veil (Παλαιοςto auto kalumma). Not that identical veil, but one that has the same effect, that blinds their eyes to the light in Christ. This is the tragedy of modern Judaism.

Unlifted (καινοςmē anakaluptomenon). Present passive participle of το αυτο καλυμμαanakaluptō old verb, to draw back the veil, to unveil.

Is done away (μη ανακαλυπτομενονkatargeitai). Same verb as in 2 Corinthians 3:7, 2 Corinthians 3:11.


Verse 15

Whensoever Moses is read (ηνικα αν αναγινωσκηται Μωυσηςhēnika an anaginōskētai Mōusēs). Indefinite temporal clause with ηνικαhēnika an and the present passive subjunctive.

A veil lieth upon their heart (επι την καρδιαν αυτων κειταιepi tēn kardian autōn keitai). Vivid and distressing picture, a fact that caused Paul agony of heart (Romans 9:1-5). With wilful blindness the rabbis set aside the word of God by their tradition in the time of Jesus (Mark 7:8.).


Verse 16

It shall turn (επιστρεπσειepistrepsei). The heart of Israel.

The veil is taken away (περιαιρειται το καλυμμαperiaireitai to kalumma). Present passive indicative of περιαιρεωperiaireō old verb, to take from around, as of anchors (Acts 27:40), to cut loose (Acts 28:13), for hope to be taken away (Acts 27:20). Here Paul has in mind Exodus 34:34 where we find of Moses that περιηιρειτο το καλυμμαperiēireito to kalumma (the veil was taken from around his face) whenever he went before the Lord. After the ceremony the veil is taken from around (περιperi̇) the face of the bride.


Verse 17

Now the Lord is the Spirit (ο δε Κυριος το πνευμα εστινho de Kurios to pneuma estin). Some, like E. F. Scott (The Spirit in the N.T.), take ΚυριοςKurios here to be Christ and interpret Paul as denying the personality of the Holy Spirit, identifying Christ and the Holy Spirit. But is not Bernard right here in taking ΚυριοςKurios (Lord) in the same sense here as in Exodus 34:34 (εναντι Κυριουenanti Kuriou before the Lord), the very passage that Paul is quoting? Certainly, the Holy Spirit is interchangeably called in the N.T. the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9.). Christ dwells in us by the Holy Spirit, but the language here in 2 Corinthians 3:17 should not be pressed unduly (Plummer. See also P. Gardner, The Religious Experience of St. Paul, p. 176f.). Note “the Spirit of the Lord” here.

Liberty (ελευτεριαeleutheria). Freedom of access to God without fear in opposition to the fear in Exodus 34:30. We need no veil and we have free access to God.


Verse 18

We all (ημεις παντεςhēmeis pantes). All of us Christians, not merely ministers.

With unveiled face (ανακεκαλυμμενωι προσωπωιanakekalummenōi prosōpōi). Instrumental case of manner. Unlike and like Moses.

Reflecting as in a mirror (κατοπτριζομενοιkatoptrizomenoi). Present middle participle of κατοπτριζωkatoptrizō late verb from κατοπτρονkatoptron mirror (κατα οπτρονkataεγκατοπτρισασται εις το υδωρoptron a thing to see with). In Philo (Legis Alleg. iii. 33) the word means beholding as in a mirror and that idea suits also the figure in 1 Corinthians 13:12. There is an inscription of third century b.c. with μεταμορπουμεταegkatoptrisasthai eis to hudōr to look at one‘s reflection in the water. Plutarch uses the active for mirroring or reflecting and Chrysostom takes it so here. Either makes good sense. The point that Paul is making is that we shall not lose the glory as Moses did. But that is true if we keep on beholding or keep on reflecting (present tense). Only here in N.T.

Are transformed (μεταμορποωmetamorphoumetha). Present passive (are being transformed) of metamorphoō late verb and in papyri. See note on Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2 where it is translated “transfigured.” It is the word used for heathen mythological metamorphoses.

Into the same image (tēn autēn eikona). Accusative retained with passive verb την αυτην εικοναmetamorphoumetha Into the likeness of God in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:48-53; Romans 8:17, Romans 8:29; Colossians 3:4; 1 John 3:2).

As from the Lord the Spirit (μεταμορπουμεταkathaper apo Kuriou pneumatos). More likely, “as from the Spirit of the Lord.”

 


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 3:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/2-corinthians-3.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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