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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies
2 Corinthians 10



Other Authors
Verse 1

I Paul myself

“This emphatic stress on his own person is the fit introduction to the portion of the epistle which, beyond any other part of his writings, is to lay open his individual life and character” (Stanley). “Paul boldly casts into the scales of his readers the weight of his own personality over against his calumniators” (Meyer).

Meekness - gentleness

See on Matthew 5:5; see on 1 Peter 2:18.

Base ( ταπεινός )

Better, as Rev., lowly. The sneer of his opponents that he was unassuming in their presence, but bold when absent. “It was easy to satirize and misrepresent a depression of spirits, a humility of demeanor, which were either the direct results of some bodily affliction, or which the consciousness of this affliction had rendered habitual. We feel at once that this would be natural to the bowed and weak figure which Albrecht Durer has represented; but that it would be impossible to the imposing orator whom Raphael has placed on the steps of the Areopagus” (Farrar).

This is the only passage in the New Testament in which ταπεινός lowlybears the contemptuous sense which attaches to it in classical usage, an illustration of which may be found in Xenophon's story of Socrates' interview with the painter Parrhasius. “Surely meanness and servility ( τὸ ταπεινόν τὲ καὶ ἀνελεύθερον ) show themselves in the looks ( διὰ προσώπου , the same word as Paul's) and gestures of men” (“Memorabilia,” iii., 10,5). So Aristotle says that frequently to submit to receive service from another, and to disparage whatever he himself has done well, are signs of littleness of soul ( μικροψυχίας ) and meanness ( ταπεινότητος ) In the Septuagint the words πένης poor πραΰ́ς meek πτωχός destituteand ταπεινός lowlyare used interchangeably to translate the same Hebrew words; the reference ordinarily being to the oppressed, in contrast with their rich and powerful oppressors, or to the quiet, in contrast with lawless wrong-doers. Compare Deuteronomy 15:11; 2 Samuel 22:28; 17) Psalm href="/desk/?q=ps+18:27&sr=1">Psalm 18:27; Isaiah 26:6; Psalm 10:17(Sept. 9:38); Proverbs 14:21; Proverbs 3:34; Numbers 12:3; Exodus 23:6, Exodus 23:11; Isaiah 32:7; Exodus 23:3; Rth 3:10 ; Isaiah 11:4; 2 Samuel 12:1, 2 Samuel 12:3, 2 Samuel 12:4; Proverbs 13:8; 1 Samuel 18:23. The Septuagint usage therefore goes to show that these four words are all names for one class - the poor peasantry of an oppressed country, the victims of ill-treatment and plunder at the hands of tyrants and rich neighbors.

Verse 2

But I beseech you ( δέομαι δὲ )

In 2 Corinthians 10:1, παρακαλῶ is used for beseech. It is doubtful whether the two words can be strictly distinguished as indicating different degrees of feeling. It may be said that δέομαι and its kindred noun δέησις are frequently used of prayer to God, while παρακαλῶ occurs only twice in this sense, Matthew 26:53; 2 Corinthians 12:8. On the other hand, παρακαλῶ is used of God's pleading with men, while in the same passage δέομαι is used of men's entreating men; 2 Corinthians 5:20. Rev., in 2 Corinthians 10:1, renders entreat, which, according to older English usage, is the stronger word, meaning to prevail by entreaty, just as persuade, which originally meant to use persuasion, now signifies to prevail by persuasion.

The construction of the passage is difficult. Literally it is: I pray the not showing courage when present, with the confidence, etc. The sense is: I pray you that you may not make it necessary for me to show, when I am present, that official peremptoriness which I am minded to show against those who charge me with unworthy motives.

May not be bold - think to be bold ( θαῤῥῆσαι - τολμῆσαι )

The A.V. thus misses the distinction between the two verbs. The former signifies to be stout-hearted or resolutely confident in view of one's conscious strength or capacity; the latter, to carry this feeling into action; to dare. The distinction is not easy to represent by single English words. It might be approximately given by brave and bold, though, in common usage, this distinction practically disappears. Θαῤῥῆσαι does not so much emphasize fearlessness as the tore positive quality of cheerful confidence in the presence of difficulty and danger, the sense which appears in the earlier usage of brave as gay (see the various uses in Shakespeare). Hence Rev. is on the right line in the use of courage, from cor heart, through the French coeur. Rev. renders, show courage - be bold. In classical Greek, the kindred noun θάρσος is sometimes, though not often, used in a bad sense, audacity, as in Homer, where Minerva is rebuking Mars for exciting strife among the gods with stormy or furious courage ( θάρσος ἄητον “Iliad,” xxi., 395). So the reckless daring of Hector is described θάρσος μυίης theeffrontery of a fly (“Iliad,” xvii., 570).

Verse 3

In the flesh

Being human, and subject to human conditions.

War ( στρατευόμεθα )

Serve as soldiers: carry on our campaign. See on Luke 3:14; see on James 4:1.

After the flesh

Or according to (Rev.). Quite a different thing from being in the flesh.

Verse 4


Rev., better, of the flesh, thus preserving the play on the words. The idea of weakness attaches to that of fleshliness. See on σάρξ fleshsec. 4, Romans 7:5.

Through God ( τῷ Θεῷ )

Lit., mighty unto God, in God's sight. See on exceeding fair, Acts 7:20. Rev., before God.

Pulling down ( καθαίρεσιν )

Only in this epistle. Compare Luke 1:52. Also used of taking down pride, or refuting arguments.

Of strongholds ( ὀχυρωμάτων )

Only here in the New Testament. From ἔχω tohold, so that holds is an accurate rendering. Compare keep, a dungeon. The word is not common in classical Greek, but occurs frequently in the Apocrypha. In its use here there may lie a reminiscence of the rock-forts on the coast of Paul's native Cilicia, which were pulled down by the Romans in their attacks on the Cilician pirates. Pompey inflicted a crushing defeat upon their navy off the rocky stronghold of Coracesium on the confines of Cilicia and Pisidia.

Verse 5

Casting down ( καθαιροῦντες )

Not the weapons, but we: we war, casting down, etc.

High thing ( ὕψωμα )

Only here and Romans 8:39. Falling in with the metaphor of strongholds. High military works thrown up, or lofty natural fastnesses with their battlements of rock. The word is also used in the Septuagint and Apocrypha of mental elevation, as Job 24:24, where the Septuagint reads “his haughtiness hath harmed many.”

Exalteth itself ( ἐπαιρόμενον )

Rev., is exalted. Aeschylus uses a similar metaphor in Atossa's dream of the two women whom Xerxes yoked to his chariot: “And the one towered ( ἐπουργοῦτο ) loftily in these trappings” (“Persae,” 190).

Bringing into captivity ( αἰχμαλωτίζοντες )

Or leading away captive. The military metaphor is continued; the leading away of the captives after the storming of the stronghold. See on captives, Luke 4:18. The campaign against the Cilician pirates resulted in the reduction of a hundred and twenty strongholds and the capture of more than ten thousand prisoners.

Thought ( νόημα )

See on 2 Corinthians 3:14.

To the obedience of Christ

In pursuance of the metaphor. The obedience is the new stronghold into which the captives are led. This is indicated by the preposition εἰς intoor unto.

Verse 6

To avenge all disobedience, etc.

The military metaphor continued. After most have surrendered and thus fulfilled their obedience, some rebels may remain, and these will be punished.

Verse 9

That I may not seem

The construction is abrupt. Probably something is to be supplied, as I say this in order that I may not seem, etc.

Verse 10

They say ( φασίν )

The correct reading is φησί sayshe. The Revisers retain they say, but read φησί hesays in their text. The reference is to some well-known opponent. Compare one, any one in 2 Corinthians 10:7; 2 Corinthians 11:20. The only instance of the very words used by Paul's adversaries.

Weighty ( βαρεῖαι )

In classical Greek, besides the physical sense of heavy, the word very generally implies something painful or oppressive. As applied to persons, severe, stern. In later Greek it has sometimes the meaning of grave or dignified, and by the later Greek rhetoricians it was applied to oratory, in the sense of impressive, as here.


“No one can even cursorily read St. Paul's epistles without observing that he was aware of something in his aspect or his personality which distressed him with an agony of humiliation - something which seems to force him, against every natural instinct of his disposition, into language which sounds to himself like a boastfulness which was abhorrent to him, but which he finds to be more necessary to himself than to other men. It is as though he felt that his appearance was against him … . His language leaves on us the impression of one who was acutely sensitive, and whose sensitiveness of temperament has been aggravated by a meanness of presence which is indeed forgotten by the friends who know him, but which raises in strangers a prejudice not always overcome” (Farrar).

Bodily presence

All the traditions as to Paul's personal appearance are late. A bronze medal discovered in the cemetery of St. Domitilla at Rome, and ascribed to the first or second century, represents the apostle with a bald, round, well-developed head; rather long, curling beard; high forehead; prominent nose; and open, staring eye. The intellectual character of the face is emphasized by the contrast with the portrait of Peter, which faces Paul's. Peter's forehead is flat, the head not so finely developed, the face commonplace, the cheek bones high, the eye small, and the hair and beard short, thick, and curling. An ivory diptych of the fourth century, reproduced in Mr. Lewin's “Life of Paul,” contains two portraits. In the one he is sitting in an official chair, with uplifted hand and two fingers raised, apparently in the act of ordination. The face is oval, the beard long and pointed, the moustache full, the forehead high, the head bald, and the eyes small and weak. The other portrait represents him in the act of throwing off the viper. A forgery of the fourth century, under the name of Lucian, alludes to him as “the bald-headed, hooknosed Galilean.” In the “Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles” mention is made of one Dioscorus, the bald shipmaster, who followed Paul to Rome, and was mistaken for him and beheaded in his stead. In the “Acts of Paul and Thekla,” a third-century romance, he is described as “short, bald, bowlegged, with meeting eyebrows, hook-nosed, full of grace.” John of Antioch, in the sixth century, says that he was round-shouldered, with aquiline nose, greyish eyes, meeting eyebrows, and ample beard.

Contemptible ( ἐξουθενημένος )

Lit., made nothing of. Rev., of no account.

Verse 12

Make ourselves of the number ( ἐγκρῖναι ἑαυτούς )

Rev., better, to number ourselves. Lit., to judge ourselves to be among: to place in the same category with.

Verse 13

Of things without measure ( εἰς τὰ ἄμετρα )

Of things is wrong; the translators failing to see that the article forms, with the following word, an adverbial phrase. Rev., correctly, glory beyond our measure.

Rule ( κανόνος )

Used by Paul only. Originally, a straight rod or ruler. Hence a carpenter's rule. Metaphorically, that which measures or determines anything, in morals, art, or language. The Alexandrian grammarians spoke of the classic Greek authors collectively as the canon or standard of the pure language. In later Greek it was used to denote a fixed tax. In christian literature it came to signify the standard of faith or of christian teaching; the creed; the rule of Church discipline, and the authorized collection of sacred writings. Hence canon of Scripture.

To understand this expression, it is to be remembered that Paul regarded his ministry as specially to the Gentiles, and that he habitually refused to establish himself permanently where any former Christian teacher had preached. The Jewish teachers at Corinth had invaded his sphere as the apostle to the Gentiles, and had also occupied the ground which he had won for himself by his successful labors among the Corinthians, as they did also at Antioch and in Galatia. He says here, therefore, that his boasting of his apostolic labors is not without measure, like that of those Jewish teachers who establish themselves everywhere, but is confined to the sphere appointed for him, of which Corinth, thus far, was the extreme limit. Hence the measure of the rule is the measure defined by the line which God has drawn. The image is that of surveying a district, so as to assign to different persons their different parcels of ground. I see no good reason for Rev. province. The measure is given by God's measuring-line: “Which God hath apportioned to us as a measure;” and his boasting extends only to this limit.

To reach even unto you

Corinth being thus far the extreme limit of the field measured out for him.

Verse 14

We stretch not ourselves beyond our measure ( μὴ ὑπερεκτείνομεν ἑαυτούς )

The verb only here in the New Testament. The A.V. is needlessly verbose. Rev., better, stretch not ourselves overmuch.

As though we reached not unto you

Lit., as not reaching. Paul would say: It is not as if God had not appointed our apostolic labor to reach to you. If He had not thus appointed, then our desire to labor among you would have been an overstretching of ourselves. Therefore, in boasting of our labor in Corinth, we do not boast beyond our measure.

We are come ( ἐφθάσαμεν )

Rev., we came. The verb originally means to come before, anticipate, as 1 Thessalonians 4:15(A.V., prevent; Rev., precede ); but it gradually loses the idea of priority, and means simply come to, arrive at. So Matthew 12:28; Philemon 3:16. It may possibly be used here with a hint of the earlier meaning, were the first to come. See Rev., margin.

Verse 15

Be enlarged by you - according to our rule abundantly ( ἐν ὑμῖν μεγαλυνθῆναι - εἰς περισσείαν )

Paul means that, as the faith of the Corinthians increases, he hopes that his apostolic efficiency will increase, so that Corinth shall become the basis of larger efforts, extending into other regions. The verb μεγαλύνω also means to praise or celebrate, as Luke 1:46; Acts 5:13; Acts 10:46, and is so explained by some interpreters here. But this would be inconsistent with the figure, to which Paul adheres. “He who can work far off is a man of great stature, who, without overstretching himself, reaches afar” (Meyer).

According to our rule

His wider labors will still be regulated by God's measuring-line.

Verse 16

In another man's line ( ἐν ἀλλοτρίῳ κανόνι )

Line is the word previously rendered rule. He will not boast within the line drawn for another; in another's field of activity.


Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 10:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

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Wednesday, October 21st, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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