2 Corinthians 12
Vincent's Word Studies
It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.
Revelations (ἀποκαλύψεις)

See on Revelation 1:1.

I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
I knew (οἶδα)

Rev., correctly, Iknow.

Above fourteen years ago (πρὸ ἐτῶν δεκατεσσάρων)

Above, of A.V., is due to a misunderstanding of the Greek idiom. Lit., before fourteen years, that is, fourteen years ago, as Rev.

Caught up (ἁρπαγέντα)

Compare Dante:

"Thou knowest, who didst lift me with thy light"

"Paradiso," i., 75.

The verb suits the swift, resistless, impetuous seizure of spiritual ecstasy. See on Matthew 11:12; and compare Acts 8:39; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; Revelation 12:5.

Third heaven

It is quite useless to attempt to explain this expression according to any scheme of celestial gradation. The conception of seven heavens was familiar to the Jews; but according to some of the Rabbins there were two heavens - the visible clouds and the sky; in which case the third heaven would be the invisible region beyond the sky. Some think that Paul describes two stages of his rapture; the first to the third heaven, from which he was borne, as if from a halting-point, up into Paradise.

And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)
How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

See on Luke 23:43.

Unspeakable words (ἄῤῥητα ῥήματα)

An oxymoron, speaking which may not be spoken.

Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.
For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
Abundance (ὑπερβολῇ)

Rev., more correctly, the exceeding greatness.

Thorn (σκόλοψ)

Only here in the New Testament. Frequent in classical Greek in the sense of a pale or stake. It occurs once in Euripides, meaning a stump ("Bacchae," 983). It is a stake for a palisade, or for impaling; a surgical instrument; the point of a fish-hook. In the Septuagint it occurs three times, translated thorn in Hosea 2:6, where, however, it is distinguished from ἀκάνθαις thorns; brier in Ezekiel 28:24, and prick in Numbers 33:55. Nine different Hebrew words are rendered by thorn, for which, in the great majority of cases, Septuagint gives ἄκανθα. The rendering thorn for σκόλοψ has no support. The figure is that of the impaling stake. Herodotus, alluding to this punishment, uses ἀνασκολοπίζειν (i., 128; 3, 132). In the ninth book of his history, Lampon says to Pausanias: "When Leonidas was slain at Thermopylae, Xerxes and Mardonius beheaded and crucified (ἀνεσταύρωσαν) him. Do thou the like by Mardonius.... for by crucifying (ἀνασκολοπίσας) thou wilt avenge Leonidas" (ix., 78). The verb seems, therefore, to have been used interchangeably with crucify; and clear instances of this occur in Philo and Lucian. At least one text of the Septuagint gives ἀνασκολοπίζω in Esther 7:10, of Haman's being hanged. See further, on Galatians 2:20. The explanations of the peculiar nature of this affliction are numerous. Opinions are divided, generally, between mental or spiritual and bodily trials. Under the former head are sensual desires, faint-heartedness, doubts, temptations to despair, and blasphemous suggestions from the devil. Under the latter, persecution, mean personal appearance, headache, epilepsy, earache, stone, ophthalmia. It was probably a bodily malady, in the flesh; but its nature must remain a matter of conjecture. Very plausible reasons are given in favor of both epilepsy and ophthalmia. Bishop Lightfoot inclines to the former, and Archdeacon Farrar thinks that it was almost certainly the latter.

Messenger of Satan (ἄγγελος Σατᾶν)

The torment is thus personified. Messenger is the word commonly rendered angel in the New Testament, though sometimes used of human messengers, as Luke 7:24, Luke 7:27; Luke 9:52; James 2:25; see also on the angels of the churches, Revelation 1:20. Messenger and Satan are not to be taken in apposition - a messenger who was Satan - because Satan is never called ἄγγελος in the New Testament. Messenger is figurative, in the sense of agent. Satan is conceived in the New Testament as the originator of bodily evil. Thus, in the gospel narrative, demoniac possession is often accompanied with some form of disease. Compare Luke 13:16; Acts 10:38, and see on 1 Corinthians 5:5.

Buffet (κολαφίζῃ)

Connect with messenger, which better suits depart; not with thorn, which would be a confusion of metaphor, a stake buffeting. For the verb, meaning to strike with the fist, see Matthew 26:67; Mark 14:65; 1 Peter 2:20. Compare Job 2:5, Job 2:7, where the Septuagint has ἅψαι touch, and ἔπαισε smote.

For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
For this thing (ὑπὲρ τούτου)

Rev., concerning this thing. But it is better to refer this to messenger: concerning this or whom. For, of A.V., is ambiguous.

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
He said (εἴρηκεν)

Rev., correctly, He hath said. The force of the perfect tense is to be insisted on. It shows that the affliction was still clinging to Paul, and that there was lying in his mind when he wrote, not only the memory of the incident, but the sense of the still abiding power and value of Christ's grace; so that because the Lord hath said "my grace," etc., Paul can now say, under the continued affliction, wherefore I take pleasure, etc., for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then am I strong. A more beautiful use of the perfect it would be difficult to find in the New Testament.

My strength

The best texts omit my, thus turning the answer into a general proposition: strength is perfected in weakness; but besides the preeminent frigidity of replying to a passionate appeal with an aphorism, the reference to the special power of Christ is clear from the words power of Christ, which almost immediately follow. Compare 1 Corinthians 2:3, 1 Corinthians 2:4; 2 Corinthians 4:7; Hebrews 11:34. Rev., rightly, retains my italicized.

May rest upon (ἐπισκηνώσῃ)

Only here in the New Testament. The simple verb σκηνόω to dwell in a tent is used by John, especially in Revelation. See on John 1:14. The compound verb here means to fix a tent or a habitation upon; and the figure is that of Christ abiding upon him as a tent spread over him, during his temporary stay on earth.

For Christ's sake

This may be taken with all the preceding details, weaknesses, etc., endured for Christ's sake, or with I take pleasure, assigning the specific motive of his rejoicing: I take pleasure for Christ's sake.

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.
I am become a fool in glorying

Ironical. By the record I have presented I stand convicted of being foolish.

I ought to have been commended of you

You ought to have saved me the necessity of recounting my sufferings, and thus commending myself as not inferior to those preeminent apostles (2 Corinthians 11:5).

Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.
Signs (σημεῖα)

See on Matthew 24:24. Stanley observes that the passage is remarkable as containing (what is rare in the history of miracles) a direct claim to miraculous powers by the person to whom they were ascribed. Compare 1 Corinthians 2:4; Romans 15:19.

Were wrought (κατειργάσθη)

The testimony was decisive. They were fully wrought out.

For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong.
Except that I was not a burden

Alluding to the possible objection that his refusal to receive pay was a sign either of his want of power to exact it, or of his want of affection for them (2 Corinthians 11:7).

Forgive, etc.


Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.
And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.
Be spent (ἐκδαπανηθήσομαι)

Only here in the New Testament. To spend utterly. Later Greek writers use the simple verb δαπανάω to expend, of the consumption of life.

But be it so, I did not burden you: nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile.
With guile

Alluding to a charge that he availed himself of the collection for the poor to secure money for himself. He uses his adversaries' words.

Did I make a gain of you by any of them whom I sent unto you?
I desired Titus, and with him I sent a brother. Did Titus make a gain of you? walked we not in the same spirit? walked we not in the same steps?
Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? we speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying.
For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults:
Strifes (ἐριθεῖαι)

Rev., better, factions. See on James 3:14.

Wraths (θυμοί)

For the plural, compare deaths, 2 Corinthians 11:33; drunkennesses, Galatians 5:21; bloods, John 1:13 (see note); the willings of the flesh, Ephesians 2:3; mercies, Philippians 2:1. Excitements or outbursts of wrath.

Whisperings (ψιθυρισμοί)

Psithurismoi, the sound adapted to the sense. Only here in the New Testament. Secret slanders. In Sept., Ecclesiastes 10:11, it is used of the murmuring of a snake-charmer. Ψιθυριστής whisperer, occurs Romans 1:29.

Swellings (φυσιώσεις)

Only here in the New Testament. Conceited inflation. For the kindred verb φυσιάω to puff up, see on 1 Corinthians 4:6.

Tumults (ἀκαταστασίαι)

See on 2 Corinthians 6:5.

And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.
Among you (πρὸς ὑμᾶς)

Better, as Rev., before. In my relation to you.

Shall bewail (πενθήσω)

Lament with a true pastor's sorrow over the sin.

Many (πολλοὺς)

With special reference to the unchaste.

Sinned - already (προημαρτηκότων)

Rev., heretofore. Only here and 2 Corinthians 13:2. The perfect tense denotes the continuance of the sin. Heretofore probably refers to the time before his second visit.

Have not repented (μὴ μετανοησάντων)

The only occurrence of the verb in Paul's writings. Μετάνοια repentance, occurs only three times: Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:9, 2 Corinthians 7:10.

Of the uncleanness (ἐπὶ τῇ ἀκαθαρσίᾳ)

Connect with bewail, not with repent. There are no examples in the New Testament of the phrase μετανοεῖν ἐπί to repent over, though such occur in the Septuagint.

Lasciviousness (ἀσελγείᾳ)

See on Mark 7:22.

Vincent's Word Studies, by Marvin R. Vincent [1886].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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