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Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical Lange's Commentary
- 2 Corinthians
by Johann Peter Lange
SECOND EPISTLE OF PAUL
CHRISTIAN FRIEDRICH KLING
Doctor Of Theology, And Late Dean Of Marbach On The Neckar
TRANSLATED FROM THE SECOND REVISED GERMAN EDITION, WITH ADDITIONS,
CONWAY P. WING, D. D.,
Pastor Of The First Presbyterian Church, Carlisle, Pa.
As far as the following work professes to be a translation, the aim of the writer has been simply to transfer into his own language the meaning and spirit of the original. From this he has not felt at liberty to depart especially in the Critical and Exegetical department. In the Doctrinal and Homiletical portions he has ventured to throw out a few sentences which seemed to him repetitions of what had been better expressed. But on becoming thoroughly possessed of the idea of any sentence, he was quite careless of the peculiar forms and words of the original German, and only anxious to express that idea most perfectly in his own style and language. A single sentence only, which the author extracted from the Berlenb. Bible (Hom. Note on 2 Corinthians 7:1), he has ventured to suppress on account of its irrelevancy and objectionable sentiment.
With respect to the additions included in brackets, his object has been to fulfil, as far as his humble abilities and opportunities would permit, the promise of the general Editor, “to prepare on an evangelical basis, the very best commentary for practical use which the combined scholarship and piety of Europe and America can produce.” This seemed to him to demand that everything of real value relating to our Epistle in the writings of English and American commentators and divines should be incorporated in his work. If the amount of these additions (more than one fourth of the whole printed matter) should seem disproportionate to the general execution and plan of the work, we are confident that to one who considers the amount of materials to be used, it will appear rather sparing than redundant. They are derived not merely from sources beyond the range of the German author. Greek, Latin, and even German writings have been drawn upon, although they must have passed under his eye, and been consciously omitted. He was, however, writing for a circle of readers, among whom a kind and degree of knowledge, and controversial questions were presupposed, very different from those which are common in this country. The authors of these suggestions are not always referred to in these notes, partly for brevity’s sake, but more frequently because they were derived from a variety of sources, and because it would now be difficult to trace them to their original authors. No small portion of the matter now used in biblical criticism has passed through mediæval and patristic channels, and has now become the common property of the learned world. Were we to name any individual from whom we have immediately received any of this, we should probably give him a credit which belongs to some distant predecessor. The Translator has, however, enjoyed no small degree of pleasure in drawing from those ancient Greek expositors, whose works not only display an unusual freshness of illustration, but have a special authority on all questions relating to their own vernacular. A complete library of the Greek and Latin fathers has been opened to him (Patrologie, par J. P. Migné, Paris, 1844–65), and has been thoroughly consulted on every part of our Epistle.
The plan announced in previous volumes required that the English authorized version should be the basis of our exposition. The present translator sympathizes with the desire so extensively felt that general confidence in that version should not be impaired. He maintains with its warmest admirers that the actual necessities of orthodoxy and godly living have not yet sufficiently called for a revision of that version for common use. And yet the more one loves the precise words which the Holy Ghost has given to the church, the more anxious will he be to receive nothing in their place. The truest friends of inspiration and of divine truth, are those who will endure as little imperfection as possible both in what we call the original text, and in the translation we give to our children and our fellow-Christians. They will not be satisfied with the freedom of our Bibles from fatal errors, but they will be anxious to present God’s word in the purest form possible for spiritual edification. Every shade of revealed truth will be precious to such as long for the whole mind of Jesus.
In a work intended principally for those who aim at a high degree of Scriptural knowledge, the first object must therefore be to obtain an accurate, original text. The Translator, with his earlier associates, believes that the recently awakened and rapidly increasing interest in sacred criticism demands a tolerably full statement of the reasons on which the more important critical conclusions are founded. Special manuals on this subject are not as common in this country as in Germany. He has therefore usually added to the author’s general statements the documentary evidence which may be adduced to sustain them. Since Dr. Kling published his commentary, some works have appeared which must also modify some of his conclusions. Among these may be mentioned especially the much enlarged seventh edition of the New Testament, and the Codex Sinaiticus, with the various readings of the Vaticanus, which Tischendorf has published; the collations of the Sinaiticus, with the text of Robert Stephens in 1550, by the Rev. F. H. Scrivener; and the numerous collections of Dean Alford in the fifth edition of his Greek Testament. Not only has the Translator made use of these, so as to supply a few new readings, and to change some former decisions of our author, but he has carefully verified many statements by a reference to the Codices in his own possession (A. B. D. Sinait.), the Vulgate, and the Greek, and the Latin fathers. He regrets that the works on which Tischendorf (N. Test., 8th edit., and a new version of the Vaticanus), Tregelles, and Ellicott are now employed, have not yet reached that portion of the New Testament to which the present commentary relates. Eminent English examples would have warranted a much fuller list of various readings, but only such have been inserted as were thought obviously to affect the force or beauty of the original.
The next object would be to present as perfect an English translation of the original text as possible. In the present work, this has hardly been attempted. It would have seemed inconsistent with the use to be made of the authorized version. He has therefore contented himself with inserting in that version some of the most important emendations required by the critical notes. We have, however, thrown into black letter type in the midst of the exegetical notes an almost continuous new translation. In a few instances we have here used paraphrastic rather than literal renderings, and often have sacrificed the elegance which a common version would have required, that the objects of the commentary might be more perfectly secured. The insertion of this translation has sometimes necessitated a slight alteration of the author’s sentences.
In the Exegetical department he has usually been satisfied with the judicious, condensed, and often admirably expressed comments of the author on all subjects embraced by his design. On other points the Translator’s object has been to supply what the author took for granted in the studies of his readers, but which hardly exists among our hard-worked clergy with their scanty libraries. The more extended notices of particular words or passages, which would have broken too much upon the course and proportions of the author’s comments, have been thrown into notes in the margin. As our readers will perceive, special importance has been attached, to the grammatical forms and the uniformity of meaning to be given to each word. The last thirty years have done much to give precision to the language of the New Testament. It has been found to be very far from the indefinite and vague thing which older interpreters sometimes represented it to be. No longer will it do to say that the apostles used one case of a noun, one tense or mood of a verb, or one particle, for another; or that the position of the words at the beginning, middle or end of a sentence is a matter of indifference. The more scientific principle must doubtless prevail, that they used words with a uniform signification, and placed them in the position which emphasis and truth required, so that no change in these particulars could be made without perverting the writer’s meaning. Many of the Greek and Latin words and sentences have been translated, so that even the merely English reader will not find it difficult to follow the author’s comments.
In the Doctrinal and Homiletical departments he was tempted to make considerable changes, and was only restrained by the nature of his position as a translator. They do these things so differently in Germany, that if their work might sometimes instruct us by contrast, it seems too far removed from our track of thought essentially to aid us. He commenced with marking many passages for omission, and with substituting an equal amount of extracts from our English and American divines, but he soon discovered that he was going beyond his proper limits. He has therefore seldom attempted to curtail our author’s extracts, and has contented himself with the addition of a few doctrinal inferences bearing upon the literature of the day, and a single series of expository hints which the habits of some of our churches happily demand.
Carlisle, July 4, 1867.
C. P. WING
SECOND EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS
§ 1. ITS GENUINENESS AND INTEGRITY
[The external evidence in behalf of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians is incontestible, and has never been assailed by the most unfriendly criticism. It reaches as far back as the generation immediately after the Apostles themselves. From the peculiar character of the Epistle, we should not expect to find it quoted as frequently as some other portions of the New Testament, and yet it is easy to select abundant testimony to satisfy us of its authenticity. Clement of Rome (A. D. 91–101), in his Epistles to the same Corinthians, assumes the existence and peculiar contents of Paul’s two Epistles, and in his Epistles ad Virgines (in Syriac and Latin, Ep. I. cap. xii.) he quotes the exclamation (2 Corinthians 11:29): Quis infirmatur, et ego non infirmor, etc., and in cap. 13, fin., the words (2 Corinthians 8:21): providentes bona, non solum eoram Deo, etc., and in Ep. ii. cap. iii. fin., the two passages (2 Corinthians 6:3; 2 Corinthians 5:11): Nemini dantes ullam offensionem, etc., and Scientes ergo timorem Domini, etc. Polycarp (A. D. 169), in his Ep. ad Philipp. § 6, uses the words (2 Corinthians 8:21): προνοοῦντες�͂ καλου ἐνώπιον θεοῦ καὶ�. Athenagoras of Athens (A. D. 177), in his treatise De resurr. mort. § 18 (Migne. Patrol. T. VI. p. 1012), says: εὔδηλον παντὶ τὸ λειπόμενον, ὅτι-δεῖ κατὰ τὸν Ἀπόστολον τὸ φθαρτὸν τοῦτο καὶ διασκεδαστὸν ἐνδύσασθαι�, ἵνα, ζωοποιηθέντων ἐξ�, καὶ πάλιν ἑνωθέντων τῶν κεχωρισμένων, ἢ καὶ πάντη διαλελυμένων, ἕκαστος κομίσηται δικαίως ἅ διὰ τοῦ σώματος ἔπραξεν, εἵτε�. Irenæus of Lyons (A. D. 177–202), in his treatise Contra Hœr. Lib. II. cap. xxx. § 7 quotes and comments upon Paul’s account of his rapture to the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2 f.); in Lib. III. cap. vii. § 1. he mentions our Epistle by name (in secunda ad Corinthios), and comments extensively upon the expression: in quibus Deus sæculi hujus excæcavit mentes infidelium; in Lib. IV. cap. xxvi. § 4 he says: Οὔτω Παῦλος ** Κἀπελογεῖτο ορινθὶοις· οὐ γὰρ ἐσμεν ὡς οἱ πολλοὶ, καπηλεύοντες τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ. ** καὶ μετ’ ὁλιγὰ· οὐδένα ἠδικήσαμεν καὶ τὰ ἑξῆς (2 Corinthians 2:17); in Lib. V. cap. v. § 2 Corinthians 1:0 : Δικαίοις γὰρ�, καὶ πνευματοφόροις ἡτοιμάσθη ὁ Παράδεισος, ἐν ῷ καὶ Παῦλος�, ὡς πρὸς ἡμᾶς ἐν τῷ παρόντι (2 Corinthians 12:2); in Lib. V. cap. xiii. § 2 Corinthians 3:0 : Καὶ διὰ τοῦτο φήσιν· ̔́Ινα καταποθνῇ τὸ θνητὸν ὑπο τῆς ζωῆς. Ὁ δὲ κατεργασάμενος ἡμᾶς εἰς αὐτὸ τοῦτο θέος, ὁ καὶ δοὺς ἡμῖν τὸν� (2 Corinthians 5:4-5; 2 Corinthians 1:22); and in Lib. V. cap. 13. § 4, he quotes 2Co 4:10; 2 Corinthians 3:3, and in Lib. IV. cap. 29. § 1 he quotes again 2 Corinthians 4:4. Clement of Alexandria (A. D. 191–202) quotes from our Epistle not less than twenty different times, as e. g., in Pœdag. Lib. 10. cap. 6. he refers to Paul’s rapture in the third heavens; in Lib. 2. cap. 8. he cites in full 2 Corinthians 2:14-16, and a few sentences afterwards 2 Corinthians 5:7; in Strom. Lib. III. capp. 12. and 14. he quotes what Paul says of Satan’s beguiling Eve; in Lib. IV. cap. 7. Paul’s description of the weapons of his spiritual warfare; in Lib. IV. cap. 16. what ὁ Ἀπόστολος—εἴρηκεν ἐν τῇ δευτέρα πρὸς κορινθίους, etc. (citing the whole of 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 2:14, and a few sentences after 2 Corinthians 3:14). See also Pœdag. Lib. III. cap. 3. (2 Corinthians 13:5), cap. 11. (2 Corinthians 8:21 f.), Strom. Lib. I. cap. 1. (2 Corinthians 6:4; 2 Corinthians 6:10-11), cap. 11. (2 Corinthians 1:9 f.), Lib. II. cap. 19. (2 Corinthians 8:12 f.), Lib. III. cap. 1. (2 Corinthians 11:13; 2 Corinthians 11:15), cap. 11. (2 Corinthians 7:1), Lib. IV. cap. 20. fin. (2 Corinthians 11:23), cap. 21. (2 Corinthians 4:7-9; 2 Corinthians 6:3-7; 2 Corinthians 6:16-18; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 2 Corinthians 7:9-11), cap. 26. (2 Corinthians 5:1-3; 2 Corinthians 5:7-9). Tertullian of Carthage (A. D. 190–220), frequently quotes our Epistle, as in pudic. cap. 13.: Revera enim suspicantur apostolum Paulum, in secunda ad Corinthios, eidem fornicatori veniam dedisse, quem in prima dedendum Satanœ interitum carnis pronunciarit impium patris de matrimonio hæredem; quasi quœ ipsam postea stylum verterit scribens: Si quis autem contristant, non me contristavit, etc. (as in 2 Corinthians 2:5-11).—With respect also to the internal evidence for the Pauline origin of our Epistle, there can be no question. Every part of it breathes the very purpose and spirit of the great Apostle to the Gentiles, his peculiar position with reference to the Mosaic Institute (2 Corinthians 3:0), his joyfulness amid extreme labors, perils and distresses (chapp. 4 and 11), his views of reconciliation by Christ and the preaching of it (chap 5), his delicacy in the treatment of erring brethren (chapp. 7 and 8), his refusal to build on the foundation of others (2 Corinthians 10:0), and his estimate of his infirmities and revelations of the Lord (2 Corinthians 12:0). Probably no portion of the New Testament exhibits the peculiar character of the writer, even when under Divine inspiration, better than this. Dr. Paley, in his Horœ Paulinœ, has here found unusually rich materials for his work, of exhibiting undesigned coincidences with the history in Acts, and with Paul’s other Epistles.]
It is only with reference to the unity of our Epistle, that some doubts have been raised. The earliest of these were advanced by Semler, who makes the first eight chapters [with Romans 16:0], and 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 constitute one Epistle; the tenth and as far as 2 Corinthians 13:10 of the last chapter a second; and 2 Corinthians 9:0 [a small circular Epistle, addressed not to the Corinthians, but to the Christians of Achaia]. Weber, near the same time, contended that there were only two distinct Epistles, viz.: the first composed of the first nine chapters with 2 Corinthians 13:11-13, and the second composed of the remainder of our present Epistle. At a later period, von Greeve, of the Netherlands, made the first Epistle consist of the first eight chapters with 2 Corinthians 13:11-13, and the second of the remainder of our present Epistle. [Quite recently C. H. Weisse (Philos. Dogm. Vol I. p. 145) maintains, with much confidence, that our Epistle is composed of three distinct circular Epistles directed at different times to the Corinthian Church, of which the first and main part of the present Epistle (chapp. 2 Corinthians 1:7 with 2 Corinthians 13:11-13) was the latest; and that these were put together in their present form by some other hand (perhaps Timothy’s, and possibly with the Apostle’s own approbation and direction)]. These views are, to some extent, in opposition to the best critical authorities, and, even where they have some plausible grounds for their support, will not bear a thorough investigation. [They are derived from the conceded fact that two or three subjects of a very different character are discussed, and that a spirit of an almost opposite nature pervades the different parts of the Epistle. So obvious are these that even Wieseler (Chron. d Aposlelgesch. § 357 f.) felt constrained to recognize a chronological division of the Epistle, and to suppose that the first part as far as 2 Corinthians 7:1, was written under the depression which the Apostle felt before the arrival of Titus, and that the remaining portion was composed under the excitement which the joyful tidings then received produced upon his mind]. But we discover no decisive evidence of such a new commencement at 2 Corinthians 7:2, nor is it probable that the triumphant passage which occurs in 2 Corinthians 2:14 would have been written under depression. The abrupt transition from the first to the second verse of 2 Corinthians 7:0, and the slight connection between the thirteenth and fourteenth verses of the sixth chapter, by no means justify the assumption that the Apostle inserted the intervening passage (2 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 7:1) “in consequence of the sudden occurrence of these thoughts to his mind.” But we regard the opinion which Schræder has advanced, that this passage is unworthy of the enlarged spirit of the Apostle to the Gentiles, and must have been added by some later hand; and the similar one which Ewald has advocated, that this paragraph was an extract from an Epistle of some unknown Apostolic writer, but was hardly worthy of the profound and generous spirit of Paul, as the offspring of an arbitrary and peculiar prejudice. Even if the connection between the different parts of our Epistle were more indistinct, and the transitions from the one to the other were much more abrupt than they actually are (comp. Osiander Einl. § 7), they ought to awaken no surprise in an Epistle [composed in the midst of a journey, under overwhelming cares and circumstances of extraordinary vicissitude, by a writer of more than common sympathies, and with reference to classes of persons so different as were the sincere but erring brethren at Corinth and their corrupt and schismatical seducers. And yet, notwithstanding the varieties of subject and tone which are found in our Epistle, the whole is pervaded by a single purpose and spirit, the object of which was to heal the divisions which had commenced and threatened such serious consequences in the church, and to establish believers there in their former confidence in Paul. We discover nothing but the various actings of the same mind in its necessary changes, while contemplating what it loves and what it abhors; and the very fact that some passages in our Epistle have been fitted into their connections with so little an appearance of design, indicates that they were the natural outpouring of a spontaneous but conflicting emotion].
§ 2. TIME AND PLACE OF ITS COMPOSITION
That the Second Epistle must have been written soon after the First is evident (comp. Osiander, Einl. § 3) from its entire spirit and contents, from the course and condition of things at Corinth, and from the anxious suspense which the writer shows with regard to events immediately anticipated. [In that first Epistle (1 Corinthians 16:8) he had announced that it was his intention to remain at Ephesus until Pentecost, but (1 Corinthians 16:5) that he expected soon to reach Corinth by way of Macedonia, and to spend the winter there. His actual departure from Ephesus may have been hastened by the insurrection against him there, but we know that he tarried for a short time at Troas on his journey to Macedonia. From his extreme anxiety to meet Titus (2 Corinthians 2:12) he did not tarry as long as he had intended at Troas, but he pressed forward to Macedonia. There he must have continued long enough before he wrote the Second Epistle to ascertain the mind of the churches in that region, and partially at least to make the collection (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). Then it was that he wrote our Epistle, and soon after went to Corinth where he abode three months (Acts 20:3), and then returned so as to be in Macedonia at Easter on his way to Jerusalem at Pentecost. It is evident from these facts that our Second Epistle must have been written when he was in Macedonia, some time during the summer or autumn after he left Ephesus. But the year on Which he wrote is not quite certain. Whatever be the year on which the First Epistle was written (either A. D. 57 or 58, see Introd. to the First Epistle) it is plain that the Second was written only a few months later. Even if it must be assigned to a different year (comp. 2 Corinthians 8:10; 2 Corinthians 9:2), we are not obliged to suppose the intervention of a whole twelvemonth between the two (Osiander p. 23).] We are not, however, quite sure that the precise place was Philippi [as the Vatican and most of the later MSS. with the old Syriac version, assert. That the bearers were Titus and his associates, is apparently substantiated by 2 Corinthians 8:23; 2 Corinthians 9:3; 2 Corinthians 9:5; Ellicott in Smith’s Dict. Art. Corinthians, II. Epist.].
§ 3. OCCASION AND DESIGN OF THE SECOND EPISTLE
About the time the First Epistle had been despatched, the Apostle was induced probably by the representations of some mentioned in 1 Corinthians 16:17, to send Timothy, who was going to Macedonia and Achaia, to the Corinthian Church, in order to revive in them “the remembrance of his ways in Christ” (1 Corinthians 4:17), and to induce them to follow out his policy. But as our Epistle contains no reference to Timothy’s visit or to its results at Corinth, nor to any account through him of the effects of Paul’s First Epistle, some have concluded that he must have been either interrupted in his journey, or recalled by the Apostle himself. Such a reference, however, ought not to have been very confidently expected in an Epistle where Timothy was associated as a writer. Certainly if Paul had recalled a messenger whose coming had been so distinctly announced, we should suppose he would have felt called upon to justify such a proceeding against the objections of his opponents. We conclude, therefore, that he had received through Timothy some account of the state of the Corinthian Church, and that these had produced disquietude in his mind (2Co 2:12; 2 Corinthians 7:5 ff.), especially when he found that Timothy had been obliged to cut short his visit there, and to hasten to meet Paul at Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:11). It was not until the return of Titus, whom he had sent after Timothy (perhaps after Timothy’s return) and after he had sent off his First Epistle (according to de Wette and others from solicitude about the impression that Epistle had produced), that he could hear any thing to quiet his apprehensions. This must have been the more painful and protracted, inasmuch as Titus had tarried beyond the expected time in order to make arrangements for the collection (2 Corinthians 8:6).
Between the First and Second Epistle, Bleek and others have supposed that the Apostle was induced by the unfavorable account through Timothy to write and send by the hands of Titus another Epistle, and that this was the occasion for the anxiety with which he looked for Titus’ return. We see no occasion for such a supposition, inasmuch as there had been quite enough in his First Epistle (1 Corinthians 3:2 ff; 1 Chronicles 4:8; 1 Chronicles 4:8; Col 4:18 ff.; 1 Corinthians 5:1 ff; 1 Corinthians 6:8; 1Co 11:17; 1 Corinthians 2:16; 1 Corinthians 4:1 ff.; 1 Corinthians 9:14; 1 Corinthians 9:18; 1 Corinthians 15:8; 1 Corinthians 15:10), to give occasion for excusing his apparent severity toward them and his boasting of himself (comp. in opposition to Bleek, an Art. in the Stud. u, Krit. 1830, p. 625 ff.; Mueller, de tribus P. iten, p. 34 ff.; Würm, Tub Zeitschr. 1833, I. 66 ff.; Wieseler, Chron. d. apost. Zeit. p. 368 ff.; Baur Paulus, p. 327 ff. [Comp. § 6].
To bring the Corinthians more completely to a proper state of mind, and that on his anticipated visit he might have no reason for severity but unite with them in joyful and sincere thanksgivings to God, the Apostle now wrote them a Second Epistle. In this he endeavors, in the First Part, to present before them their true relations to him and to his office, by reminding them of their common sufferings, consolations and prayers (2 Corinthians 1:3 ff.), by removing from himself all appearance of insincerity, duplicity and instability, and by showing that the change in his plans respecting his journey which had exposed him to such imputations, sprung from a desire to spare them unnecessary pain (2 Corinthians 1:12 ff.). He assures them that the severity which had characterized some portions of his First Epistle, had no other origin than his love to them, and he now comes to a friendly understanding with them with reference to his main design to produce in them the state of mind which they had actually attained (2 Corinthians 2:1-11). He then reminds them that his work was acceptable to God both in them that perished and in them that were saved (2 Corinthians 2:3 ff.), and that they themselves had witnessed his sincerity in handling the word of God and the effects of his labors at Corinth, he extols the glory of his office, brings to their recollection the honesty and purity of conduct with which he had performed the duties of that office among them, and contrasts both the office and his conduct with the legal services of the Old Testament dispensation. He accounts for the different results of his preaching, by ascribing the one to the blinding influence of Satan and the other to the illuminating power of God (2 Corinthians 4:1-4; 2 Corinthians 4:6), assures them that both his present afflictions and his future glory would redound to the divine honor and their benefit, and takes occasion in passing to set in its true light the general bearing of present afflictions and infirmities upon the heavenly state (2Co 4:7 ff; 2 Corinthians 5:1, ff.) He then directs their thoughts to the connection between his hope of future glory and his continual efforts to please the Lord; and this brings him to another avowal of the sincerity with which he had performed his official duties. This he traces to the essential nature of the scheme of salvation, whose excellence leads him to admonish them with great earnestness not to receive the grace of God in vain, but to appropriate to themselves all its benefits (2 Corinthians 5:9; 2 Corinthians 6:10) Having demanded, therefore, of them a reciprocation of his overflowing love and confidence, he urges them to renounce all fellowship with every form of idolatry, and gives utterance to his joy over the final effects of his former Epistle though it had at first so much disturbed them (2 Corinthians 6:11; 2 Corinthians 7:16). The confidence they had thus reposed in him he endeavors to confirm; and he begins in the Second Part of his Epistle to interest them in the collections he was then making; and endeavors to awaken in them a spirit of emulation by reminding them of what other churches had done. He does not, however, leave this point without presenting before them higher motives, and pointing them to the benefits which beneficence would surely bring. In the midst of these exhortations he takes occasion to explain his own proceedings with reference to these collections (2 Corinthians 8:9).
In the early and more apologetic portion of his Epistle he had given some attention to polemical questions as they came across his track of thought, but in the Third Part, he devotes to these a more special discussion. Even here, however, he mingles with his assaults upon his opponents, earnest admonitions of those who had listened to such teachers and occasionally defends his personal and official conduct (2 Corinthians 10:0 et seq.). With some severe reproof for immoralities yet remaining in the church (2 Corinthians 12:20; 2 Corinthians 13:6), he subsides into a milder and more hopeful tone, and concludes with cordial encouragements and an all-comprehensive Benediction (2 Corinthians 13:7 ff.).
From this general view of the contents of our Epistle, its Design becomes quite evident. Every thing was directed to the restoration and confirmation of the Apostle’s authority which had been so bitterly and obstinately assailed, and the removal of all hinderances to his efforts for their welfare. The majority being won over to his side, the way was open to bring back to obedience those among the people who still opposed him. To do this he was obliged to clear away the prejudices which had been raised against him, and to discover the insincerity and perverseness of those who had seduced them. These were evidently Judaizers (comp. 2 Corinthians 11:22). It is still a matter of controversy whether they belonged to the Petrine or to the Christ party. Against those who maintain that they belonged to the former (Meyer and others), it has truly been objected (Osiander), that our Epistle never hints at Peter as the head of their party, and even the phrase τῶν ὑπερλίαν� (2 Corinthians 11:5; 2 Corinthians 12:11) cannot refer to our Lord’s Apostles. That they belonged to the latter party is also argued from the fact that the idea of the Christ party seems to be Implied in 2 Corinthians 10:7, that a rejection of all apostolic authority seems hinted at in the words τῶν ὑπερλίαν�, and that a number of indications are given that they had departed from the commonly received doctrine with respect to the person of Jesus (2 Corinthians 11:12; 2 Corinthians 2:17). They seem, however, to have been especially distinguished for their opposition to Paul’s apostolic authority, and for their zeal in behalf of the Jewish law and for Christianity as a merely legal system (comp. Osiander § 4).
§ 4. STYLE
[“The contrast between the First and Second Epistle is in no respect more obvious than in its style. Not only are the subjects perpetually varied and the characters rapidly shifting, but the manner and spirit of the writer are remarkably diverse. Consolation and rebuke, gentleness and severity, earnestness and irony succeed one another at brief intervals and unexpectedly.” Alford. Meyer remarks: “The excitement and interchange of the affections and probably also the haste under which Paul wrote the Epistle, certainly render the expressions often obscure and the constructions difficult; but they serve only to exalt our admiration of the great oratorical delicacy, art and power with which this outpouring of Paul’s spirit, especially interesting as a self-defence, flows and streams onward, till its billows finally overflow the whole opposition of his adversaries.” Erasmus remarks also, that “the difficulty of grasping the precise mind of this divine rhetorician far exceeds that which is felt in comprehending that of ordinary poets and orators; that he is so full of turns and delicate allusions, that one is constantly at a loss to know what he is doing, whither he is driving, and what he is opposing. So skilful are his arts that you can hardly believe he is at different times the same man. Now he boils up like a limpid spring, suddenly he rolls away with a great noise like a mighty torrent bearing all before it, and then he flows gently along, or expands like a placid lake over all the land. Sometimes he quite loses himself as it were in the sand, but all at once he breaks out at some unexpected point.”—Paraph., p. 58. “Though this Epistle is, perhaps, the least methodical of Paul’s writings, it is among the most interesting, as it brings out the man most distinctly before the reader, and reveals his intimate relations to the people among whom he labored.”—Hodge.]
§ 5. ITS CONTENTS AND IMPORTANCE
[The interest of the Second, even more than that of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, is principally historical. From the peculiar circumstances which called it forth, the Apostle was led to dwell much upon what was personal to himself and to those whom he addressed. We have nowhere else so clear an insight into the character and life of an apostle, and it is remarkable that while no other portion of Paul’s life could have been more active and eventful, we have scarcely any notice of the period which here comes before us, except what is contained in our Epistle. Many circumstances here supplied seem indispensable to the understanding of what is related in the Acts and the other Epistles (comp. Paley in Hor. Paul.). We are especially here shown the high moral and religious spirit of the Apostle, his self-sacrificing devotion to the welfare of his converts, and the honorable principles which governed his conduct towards his fellow-laborers. All this, however, is mingled, as usual in his writings, with evangelical maxims and doctrines of a general nature, which make our Epistle of no small importance to theological science; and certainly no portion of the Epistles has supplied richer materials for homiletic use. Among the historical notices of great value may be mentioned Paul’s abounding consolations under severe afflictions, his probable visit and letter to the Corinthians, of which we have no other account, and the narrative of his ecstasy and revelations. Important doctrinal statements are also given respecting the testimony of conscience (2 Corinthians 1:12-14), the power of the Church in cases of discipline (2 Corinthians 2:3-8), the contrast between the Christian and the Mosaic dispensations (2 Corinthians 3:8-18), the prospect of a building of God, a house not made with hands, in the heavens (2 Corinthians 5:1-8), the objects of the death of Christ and the nature of the reconciliation effected by Him (2 Corinthians 5:14-21; 2 Corinthians 8:9), the duty of separation from the world (2 Corinthians 6:14-18), the nature of godly sorrow and repentance (2 Corinthians 7:8-11), the true method of charitable contributions (2 Corinthians 8:1; 2 Corinthians 9:15), the limits and nature of inspiration (2 Corinthians 8:8; 2 Corinthians 8:10), and the signs of a Divine Apostleship (2 Corinthians 12:12)—On this whole subject, however,] we may adopt the animated representation of Osiander (Einl. § 5). Having given us his view of the contents of the Epistle, he proceeds to point out, first, the admirable psychological order and psychagogical [persuasive] method which the Apostle must have had in his mind, and then the ample range of subjects through which the discussion of an occasional topic leads him, the excitement which his immediate relations to his readers awakened, the grouping together of special and general, of temporal and eternal, of historical and didactic subjects; the animated introduction of historical incidents, and the felicitous blending together of his own official and private affairs; the gradual combination of these with the interests of the Church, and the affairs of each congregation with those of the general Church, and of all these with the cause of Christ. We have then an admirable picture of the Apostolic office, standing out so prominently in the Epistle as to control every part, sometimes in the representation of the Apostle himself, wisely, lovingly and energetically performing the hardest services in the most trying situations; but sometimes also in profound theoretic statements of its essential nature (2 Corinthians 3:4). We are then presented with a beautiful and thorough confirmation and completion of some discussions which had been only broached in his First Epistle (1 Corinthians 3:0; 1 Corinthians 4:0; 1 Corinthians 12:5), as, e.g., the power of the keys, there to bind, here to loose; the object, influence, institution, trials, consolations, distresses, helps, toils and fruits, dignities and burdens, of his office. In the midst of these discussions, however, he is very naturally led to a consideration of the doctrine of the cross (2 Corinthians 4:6), of the power of the Divine Word (2 Corinthians 2:0), of the law and the Gospel (2 Corinthians 3:4), of the resurrection, of reconciliation and justification (5), of regeneration (2 Corinthians 5:6), of repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10 f), and of Christian beneficence (collections), every thing and every subject is contemplated only as it is related to Christ; and He is the measure of all things. Profound analogies and demonstrations, as well as typical illustrations, are taken from the work of creation (2 Corinthians 4:6), and from the Jewish dispensation and its ministers (2 Corinthians 3:7 ff), and his arguments are confirmed by examples and testimonies from the Jewish Scriptures (2 Corinthians 6:16 ff; 2Co 8:15; 2 Corinthians 9:7; 2 Corinthians 9:9). In the principal passages, we have sometimes startling illustrations for the development of his subject, derived from sacred history, from nature, and from common life (2 Corinthians 3:3; 2 Corinthians 11:3; 2 Corinthians 9:6; 2 Corinthians 9:10); more frequent solemn affirmations for the confirmation of his assertions than he is accustomed to give (2Co 1:18; 2 Corinthians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 11:31; 2 Corinthians 12:2) produced by the fervency of his zeal and his absolute certainty with respect to what he was saying and the falsehoods against which he was contending. We have every vicissitude of feeling, deep depression and high exhilaration, humble prostration and lofty enthusiasm, painful apprehensions and satisfying consolations, etc., all apparently united by a very slight thread of association, but really forming a harmonious work of art in the most perfect unity of truth and love. Finally, with respect to language, we recognize the influence not only of the limited knowledge and movements of the age, but of the intense mental agitations of that period; and yet with all its harshness, rigidity and broken sentences, our Epistle is an admirable mirror of the Apostle’s actual state of mind, filled as it was and made eloquent by the Spirit of God. Truths of the utmost importance are communicated in a style of eminent, though frequently anomalous, beauty (comp. Meyer, Einl. p. 5).
[§ 6. THE APOSTLE’S VISITS, AND LOST LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS
Two questions, necessarily raised in the interpretation of our Epistle, seem to demand consideration in this Introduction. The First relates to the number of visits which the Apostle made to Corinth. “It seems distinctly implied in 2 Corinthians 12:14; 2 Corinthians 13:1-2, that he had been there twice before the time at which he was writing. St. Luke, however, only mentions one visit prior to that time (Acts 18:1, sq.), for the visit recorded in Acts 20:2-3, was confessedly subsequent. If, with Grotius and others, we assume that in 2 Corinthians 13:14 τρίτον belongs to ἑτοίμως ἕχω and not to ἐλθεῖν πρὸς ὑμᾶς, we still have in 2 Corinthians 13:1, the definite words τρίτον τοῦτο ἔρχομαι, which seem totally to preclude any other meaning than this—that the Apostle had visited them twice before, and was now on the eve of going to them a third time. The ordinary subterfuge that ἔρχομαι is here equivalent to ἑτοίμως ἔχω ἐλθε͂ιν (so actually A. and the Arabic (Erp.), and Coptic versions), is grammatically indefensible, and would never have been thought of, if the narrative of the Acts had not seemed to require it. We must assume, then, that the Apostle made a visit to Corinth which St. Luke was not moved to record, and which, from its probably short duration, might easily have been omitted in a narrative which is more a general history of the Church in the lives of its chief teachers, than a chronicle of annalistic detail. So Chrysostom and his followers, Oecumenius and Theophylact, and, in recent times, Mueller (de tribus Pauli itin.), Auger (Rat. temp. p. 70 sq.), Wieseler (Chronol. p. 239), and the majority of modern critics. It has formed a further subject of inquiry whether, on this supposition, the visit to Corinth is to be regarded only as the return there from a somewhat lengthened excursion during the eighteen months’ stay at that city (Auger), or whether it is to be referred to the period of the three years’ residence at Ephesus. The latter has most supporters, and seems certainly more natural” (Ellicott, in Smith’s Diet. of the Bib.). On the other hand, it must be conceded that Paul’s expressions in 2 Corinthians 1:15; 2 Corinthians 13:2, seem to imply that he had been there but once, and can only be explained on the supposition that his visit was so short and sad (2 Corinthians 2:1), that it was not brought into consideration (comp. Wordsworth on 2 Corinthians 2:1 and 2 Corinthians 13:1).
The Second question relates to the number of letters which Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church. We can hardly hope to attain a certain answer to this question; and so far as reference is had to one supposed to have been written before our extant First, and referred to in 1 Corinthians 5:9, we have nothing at present to do. Our only inquiry is, whether the numerous allusions in the Second Epistle to a letter which he speaks of by way of eminence as “the Epistle,” was not one sent at some time between the First and Second, but now lost? Neander (Planting and Training, Philada., 1844, p. 156), contends that it was, and that it was sent by the hands of Titus. He thinks that Paul would not have sent Titus on such an errand without some words of explanation however few; and that in this Epistle, so brief and so temporary in its interest as not to be thought worthy of preservation, the Apostle used expressions of severity which caused intense anxiety as soon as it was gone. On this supposition he explains much of the language of the Epistle (which seems to him so strong as to be extravagant, on any other supposition), respecting his severity and his solicitude regarding its effects (2Co 7:8; 2 Corinthians 7:12, etc.). He also thinks that, Timothy having failed to reach Corinth, and reports having come to Paul of the unhappy state of the Corinthians, Titus was sent to supply the place of Timothy and to do something to recover them, and Paul himself declined going at that time lest he should have to proceed to extremity. Either the incestuous person had proved rebellious and was raising parties there, or persons had come from abroad who had conducted toward the Apostle with great insolence. Paul wrote words of stern rebuke, not for his cause who had done wrong, nor for his cause who had suffered wrong (either himself or the father of the incestuous person), but for their good (2 Corinthians 7:12). With Neander agree also Olshausen, Credner, J. L. Davies (in Smith’s Diet., art. Paul). Alford says: “It may have been so,” but many (Kling and others) think that more decided allusions to such an Epistle might have been expected had it existed and been of so much importance in Paul’s mind.]