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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 10

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

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Verse 1

2 Corinthians 10:1 . αὐτὸς δὲ ἐγὼ Παῦλος κ . τ . λ .: now ( δέ marks a transition to a new subject, as at 2 Corinthians 8:1 , 1 Corinthians 15:1 ) I Paul myself ( αὐτὸς ἐγὼ , calling attention to a specially personal matter as at 2 Corinthians 12:13 , Romans 9:3 ; Romans 15:14 ; he writes ἐγὼ Παῦλος elsewhere at Galatians 5:2 , Ephesians 3:1 , Philemon 1:19 only, for the sake of emphasis) entreat you ( cf. 2 Corinthians 1:4 , and for the constr. παρακαλῶ διὰ cf. Romans 12:1 ; Romans 15:30 , 1 Corinthians 1:10 ; the πραΰτης καὶ ἐπικίκεια τοῦ Χρ . are the example which gives point to the entreaty or exhortation) by the meekness and gentleness of the Christ . That the Messianic King should be πραΰς had been declared by Zechariah (2 Corinthians 9:9 , cited Matthew 21:5 ), while πραΰτης had been associated with His royal progress by the Psalmist (Psalms 44:5 ); and Christ, when He came, declared that he was πραΰς καὶ ταπεινὸς f1τῇ καρδίᾳ , a claim which His life on earth abundantly exemplified ( cf. Matthew 12:19 , Luke 23:34 ). So too in the wonderful portrait of the Righteous Man in Wis 2:12 ff., ἐπιείκεια , “gentleness,” “sweet reasonableness,” is one of the qualities mentioned ( Wis 2:19 ). In Greek Ethics ( e.g. , Aristotle, Nic. Eth. , v., 10) the ἐπιεικής is the “equitable” man, who does not press for the last farthing of his rights (see reff.). St. Paul alludes to these qualities as well known to have belonged to the character of Jesus, even as they had been foretold of the Messiah. ὃς κατὰ πρόσωπον κ . τ . λ .: I Paul, who indeed ( sc. , as you say by way of reproach, the concessive μέν ) before your face am lowly among you (he had admitted this before, 1 Corinthians 2:3 and chap. 2 Corinthians 7:6 , and the lowliness of his demeanour had been made the subject of adverse comment, see further 2 Corinthians 10:10 ), but being absent am of good courage towards you, i.e. , am outspoken in rebuke of you (a quite different phrase from θαρρῶ ἐν ὑμῖν of 2 Corinthians 7:16 ).

Verses 1-6

2 Corinthians 10:1-6 . HE BEGS THEM NOT TO FORCE HIM TO EXERT HIS AUTHORITY WITH SEVERITY WHEN HE COMES. He first expresses the hope that their conduct will be such as to admit of his being “meek and gentle” when he arrives at Corinth, of his coming in a “spirit of meekness,” and not “with a rod” (1 Corinthians 4:21 ).

Verse 2

2 Corinthians 10:2 . δέομαι δὲ τὸ μὴ παρὼν κ . τ . λ .: nay ( sc. , “however that be,” δέ recommencing the sentence) I beseech you, that I may not (the use of the article with μή and the inf. is somewhat unusual; but cf. 2 Corinthians 2:1 , Romans 14:13 ; τὸ adds emphasis to the thing asked), when present, shew courage with the confidence (almost = “peremptoriness”) wherewith I count on myself (mid., not passive) to be bold against some (for the vague τινες see on 2 Corinthians 3:1 ) which count of us as if we walked according to the flesh . His opponents charged him with low motives ( cf. 2 Corinthians 2:17 ) which he will indignantly and sternly repudiate.

Verse 3

2 Corinthians 10:3 . ἐν σαρκὶ γὰρ κ . τ . λ .: for though we walk in the flesh, sc. , as all men must do (see reff.), we do not war, i.e. , carry on our campaign against evil and the enemies of God, according to the flesh ( cf. John 17:15 ) for the weapons of our warfare (see on 2 Corinthians 6:7 ) are not carnal (see on 2 Corinthians 1:12 ), but are mighty before God, i.e. , in God’s sight, in His estimation (or, perhaps, “ exceeding mighty,” which is the force of τῷ Θεῷ at Jonah 3:3 , Acts 7:20 ; the A.V. “mighty through God,” i.e. , “by His aid,” cannot be right), to the casting down of strongholds , which is the ultimate object of every campaign, and which, being achieved, is the seal of victory; καθαίρειν τὰ ὀχυρώματα is the regular LXX phrase for the reduction of a fortress (see Proverbs 21:22 , Lamentations 2:2 , 1Ma 5:65 ; 1Ma 8:10 ).

Verse 4

2 Corinthians 10:4 is an explanatory parenthesis, and the constr. of 2 Corinthians 10:5 is continuous with 2 Corinthians 10:3 , the metaphor of the destruction of the citadel being carried on.

Verse 5

2 Corinthians 10:5 . λογισμοὺς καθαιροῦντες κ . τ . λ .: casting down , as if they were centres of the enemy’s force, reasonings (St. Paul’s message, as he told the Corinthians at 1 Corinthians 2:4 was not ἐν πειθοῖς σοφίας λόγοις , but “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power”; he ever regards the Gospel as a revelation , not a body of doctrine which could be reasoned out by man for himself from first principles not, to be sure, an irrational system, but one which is beyond the capacity of reason to discover or to fathom to its depths), and every high thing (carrying on the metaphor by which the “towering” conceits of speculation are represented as fortifications erected against the soldiers of the Cross) that is exalted , or “elevated,” “built up,” against the knowledge of God, sc. , which is revealed in Christ, and leading captive (for αἰχμαλωτίζειν the more correct Attic form is αἰχμαλωτεύειν ) every thought into the obedience of Christ ( cf. 2 Corinthians 9:13 ). All through this passage the Apostle has directly in view the opposition of gainsayers at Corinth, and so it is not safe to interpret his phrases as directed without qualification against the claims of the intellect and conscience in the matter of doctrine. Yet it must be remembered that he regarded the message which he preached as directly revealed to himself, and not derived from tradition or interpretation, and hence as possessed of a certainty to which the demonstrations of philosophy, however cogent, could not attain. All Truth must be loyal to “the obedience of Christ,” who was Himself “the Truth” ( cf. 2 Corinthians 13:8 ).

Verse 6

2 Corinthians 10:6 . καὶ ἐν ἑτοίμῳ ἔχοντες κ . τ . λ .: and being in readiness ( cf. ἑτοίμως ἔχω chap. 2 Corinthians 12:14 ) to avenge all disobedience ( cf. Matthew 18:17 ), sc. , if there remain any still disobedient, when your obedience, i.e. , to me and to my Apostolic authority ( cf. 2 Corinthians 2:9 , 2 Corinthians 7:15 ), shall be fulfilled . The word ὑπακοή in 2 Corinthians 10:5 brings him back to this, the primary object of his letter. He does not wish to arrive in Corinth until the Church as a whole is firm in its loyalty to him.

Verse 7

2 Corinthians 10:7 . τὰ κατὰ προσ . κ . τ . λ .: ye look at the things which are before your face; i.e. , you pay too much attention to outward appearances ( cf. Romans 2:11 , Galatians 2:6 , Ephesians 6:9 ), you lay too much stress on personal intimacy with Christ in the flesh (2 Corinthians 10:7 ), and on a man’s bodily presence and powers of speech (2 Corinthians 10:10 ), even on his own self-commendation (2 Corinthians 10:12 ). The rec. text places a note of interrogation after βλέπετε , but it seems preferable to treat the sentence as a simple categorical statement (see esp. on 2 Corinthians 10:12 , and cf. John 7:24 ). εἴ τις πέποιθεν κ . τ . λ .: if any man (this is his usual vague way of referring to opponents; cf. 2 Corinthians 11:4 ; 2 Corinthians 11:20 ) trusteth in himself that he is Christ’s , prides himself on specially belonging to what he regards as the “party” of Christ, which had unhappily grown up at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:12 ), let him consider this again (he has often heard it before, but has forgotten it) with himself (or, reading ἀφʼ ἑαυτοῦ , “let him think this out for himself” it does not need any prompting from without), that even as he is Christ’s, so also are we (1 Corinthians 3:23 ).

Verses 7-18


Verse 8

2 Corinthians 10:8 . ἐάν τε γὰρ καὶ περισσότερόν κ . τ . λ .: for even if I should glory somewhat abundantly (or, perhaps, “somewhat more abundantly,” sc. , than I have already done in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 ; but the comparative need not be pressed; cf. 2 Corinthians 2:4 ), concerning our authority ( which the Lord gave for building you up, and not for casting you down ), I shall not be put to shame, i.e. , my confident words can be amply justified. He returns here to the image of 2 Corinthians 10:4 ; his authority (and he repeats this again in the same words at 2 Corinthians 13:10 ) extends not solely or chiefly to the overthrow of the fortresses of misguided imagination, but also to the positive and more congenial work of construction, of “building up” ( cf. Jeremiah 1:10 ).

Verse 9

2 Corinthians 10:9 . ἵνα μὴ δόξω κ . τ . λ .: that I may not seem as if I would scare you by my letters . It is best to take these words with εἰς οἰκοδομήν of the preceding verse; his purpose in writing so severely is not to terrify them, but to build them up in holiness and obedience. ὡς ἄν = tanquam , with the infin. is only found here in the N.T. The plural τῶν ἐπιστολῶν suggests (what we know from 1 Corinthians 5:9 ) that at least one letter of rebuke in addition to 1 Cor. had been written before this.

Verse 10

2 Corinthians 10:10 . ὅτι αἱ ἐπιστολαὶ μὲν , φασίν κ . τ . λ .: for “his letters” they say “are weighty and powerful but,” etc. The reading is doubtful (see crit. note); if we follow the rec. text φησίν = “one says” or “he says” ( cf. Wis 15:12 ), the reference will be to an individual opponent (the f1τοιοῦτος of 2 Corinthians 10:11 ) who would be readily recognised by the Corinthians; but we must then suppose τις to have dropped out. It is simpler therefore to read φασίν with the A.V. and R.V., and to take the words as reproducing the charge against the Apostle commonly made by those who were disaffected at Corinth. They are “remarkable as giving a contemporary judgment on his Epistles, and a personal description of himself” (Stanley). ἡ δὲ παρουσία τοῦ σώματος κ . τ . λ .: “ but his bodily presence is weak (see chap. 2 Corinthians 12:7 , Galatians 4:14 , and Acts 14:12 , where the Lystrans called Barnabas “Zeus,” and evidently therefore counted him as of more dignified presence than his companion) and his speech contemptible ”; cf. 1 Corinthians 1:17 . Persuasive speaker as St. Paul must have been (the Lystrans called him Hermes as “the chief speaker”), he probably had not the arts of a trained rhetorician (1 Corinthians 1:17 ; 1 Corinthians 2:1 ; 1 Corinthians 2:4 , chap. 2 Corinthians 11:6 ), and this would appear a grave defect to these clever and shallow Greeks. According to the second century Acts of Paul and Thecla (§ 3) the Apostle was a low-sized man, bow-legged, of a healthy complexion, with eyebrows knit together (the Armenian version adds that his eyes were blue), and an aquiline nose. The description of him in the piece called Philopatris (§ 13), ascribed to Lucian, is very similar.

Verse 11

2 Corinthians 10:11 . τοῦτο λογιζέσθω κ . τ . λ .: let such an one, sc. , as makes comments of the kind just quoted, reckon this, that ( cf. constr. 2 Corinthians 10:7 ) what we are in word by letters when we are absent, such are we also in deed when we are present .

Verse 12

2 Corinthians 10:12 . οὐ γὰρ τολμῶμεν κ . τ . λ .: for we do not venture (an ironical refusal to put himself on a level with his adversaries, whose shallow pretensions he thus quietly exposes) to number or compare ourselves (note the paronomasia in the Greek) with certain of them that commend themselves (the charge made against him see on 2 Corinthians 3:1 he retorts with great effect on his opponents); but they themselves measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves with themselves are without understanding ( cf. Proverbs 26:12 ). This sentence is so much involved, that it is not surprising to find the Western authorities (see crit. note) giving it a quite different turn by the omission of the words οὐ συνιοῦσιν (or συνιᾶσιν ) ἡμεῖς δὲ … καυχησόμεθα . Following this shorter text, the meaning would be: “but we are measuring ourselves by ourselves and comparing ourselves with ourselves, not going into spheres beyond our measure,” etc. This gives a connected sense, and is favoured by the fact that the balance of the sentence leads us to expect that αὐτοὶ after ἀλλὰ shall refer to the Apostle, and not to his opponents, as it must do with the longer reading. Nevertheless we believe that the omission is simply an attempt to evade the difficulty of the true text; it would be quite unlike St. Paul to speak of himself as his own standard of conduct, and would not be harmonious with the thought of 2 Corinthians 10:13 . Others take συνιοῦσιν as a dative participle and adopt the rendering: “but we ( i.e. , St. Paul) measure ourselves by ourselves, and compare ourselves with ourselves, unwise as we are” ( sc. , in their opinion). This, however, is not only open to the objection just mentioned, but would require τοῖς before οὐ συνιοῦσιν . On the whole, therefore, we prefer to follow the best MS. authority by reading συνιᾶσιν , and to treat the Western text as an abbreviation, which misses the point of the argument in the attempt to simplify the construction.

Verse 13

2 Corinthians 10:13 . ἡμεῖς δὲ οὐχὶ κ . τ . λ .: but we will not glory beyond our measure ( εἰς τὰ representing the direction and extent of his boasting), but according to the measure of the rule which ( οὗ for ὅν by attraction) God hath apportioned (see reff.) to us as a measure, to reach (the infin. of purpose) even unto you . κανών is a line of direction (see reff., and cf. Clem. Rom., § 41, μὴ παρεκβαίνων τὸν ὡρισμένον τῆς f1λειτουργίας αὐτοῦ κανόνα ), and so here represents the “province” or sphere in which St. Paul conceives himself as appointed by God to proclaim the Gospel. He especially emphasises this here; to Corinth he has a “mission,” as the Apostle of the Gentiles; his authority over the Corinthian Church is not usurped, but has been divinely given him.

Verse 14

2 Corinthians 10:14 . οὐ γὰρ ὡς μὴ κ . τ . λ .: for we stretch not ourselves overmuch, as though we reached not unto you ( ὡς μή indicating that the case is only a hypothetical one; cf. 1 Corinthians 4:18 ); for we came ( φθάνω being used as in modern Greek; see reff.) as far as unto you in the Gospel of Christ . Corinth was the westernmost point that he had reached. This verse, it will be observed, is parenthetical, and is introduced to make it clear that Corinth was part of his appointed sphere; cf. 1 Corinthians 3:5 ; 1Co 4:15 ; 1 Corinthians 9:1 .

Verse 15

2 Corinthians 10:15 . οὐκ εἰς τὰ ἄμετρα κ . τ . λ .: not glorying beyond our measure (the argument is resumed from 2 Corinthians 10:13 ), that is, in other men’s labours . This he steadily avoided ( cf. Romans 15:20 ); even Rome itself was to be visited en route to Spain (Romans 15:24 ). But his Corinthian opponents were not so scrupulous about intruding into another man’s sphere (1 Corinthians 3:10 ; 1 Corinthians 4:15 ). ἐλπίδα δὲ ἔχ . κ . τ . λ .: but having hope that, as your faith groweth (see Ephesians 2:21 ; Ephesians 4:15 , Colossians 1:10 ; Colossians 2:19 . for intrans. use of αὐξάνειν , and cf. chap. 2 Corinthians 9:10 ), we shall be magnified in you ( cf. Acts 5:13 ) according to our rule, i.e. , our “line,” our apportionment of Apostolic work, unto further abundance, so as , etc.

Verse 16

2 Corinthians 10:16 . εἰς τὰ ὑπερέκεινα κ . τ . λ .: so as to preach the Gospel in the regions beyond you, i.e. (if we are to press the idea of direction in ὑπερέκεινα ), the western parts of Greece, Rome and Spain, which were “beyond,” if viewed from Jerusalem, the home of Christianity, whence St. Paul, like the other early preachers, received his “mission” (more probably, however, ὑπερέκεινα is used quite vaguely as ἐπέκεινα is in Amos 5:27 , where the idea of direction cannot be read into it), and not to glory in another’s “line” about things made ready to our hand . This is what the intruders had done at Corinth, whose Church St. Paul had founded (1 Corinthians 3:6 ).

Verse 17

2 Corinthians 10:17 . ὁ δὲ καυχώμενος κ . τ . λ .: but he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord , a quotation from the O.T. (see reff.) used before by St. Paul ( cf. also Romans 15:18 , 1 Corinthians 3:7 ). For not he that commendeth himself is approved ( cf. Proverbs 27:2 ), but whom the Lord commendeth ( cf. Romans 2:29 , 1 Corinthians 4:5 ). And the Corinthian Church itself is his “letter of commendation” (2 Corinthians 3:2 ).

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 10". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/egt/2-corinthians-10.html. 1897-1910.
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